What is it about photographers and travel – is it something to do with their quest to find new and remarkable images? Fotolia contributor Rafal may be resident in Poland now, but his camera has taken its share of exotic snaps!

These days, Rafal specializes more in stock photography; we asked him how this came about and why he enjoys taking pictures of his food…

Fotolia: Can you tell us a bit about your photography background, where you studied, and what it was that made you want to become a photographer?

RafalRafal: My interest in photography began when I was a kid and I got my first point-and-shoot camera for my 18th birthday. I graduated from university – nothing to do with photography – and after a few years had the opportunity to do some traveling, and it was then my passion for photography returned and I decided to buy my first DLSR. It all started from there.

I have no photography education background, everything I’ve learned comes from research, tutorials, books, forums, and simple trial and error.

Fo: What, in your opinion, are the prerequisites for success in stock photography?

Ra: I believe that being creative is the most important thing – without that we can only copy what has been done before.

Nowadays, stock photography is very specific, and building a successful portfolio requires time and patience – nothing can be created instantly, but if you believe we can succeed, you definitely will.

You need to upload good photos on a regular basis, constantly improve their quality, and be selective with your images  – these are the “secrets” of success in stock photography.

Fo: Food is a big subject in your Fotolia portfolio – what is the main reason behind this?

Ra: We all love food but not everyone can cook. My wife is passionate about both international cuisine and photography, so that’s where my inspiration came from. I see beautifully prepared food and then have the challenge of turning it into stock photography; it’s real fun, but sometimes very hard work!

I also began shooting food because I wanted to refresh my portfolio and try something different. After I joined Fotolia it proved to be a very good path to take.

Fo: How long have you been selling your images on Fotolia? What would you say to anyone hoping to start selling theirs?

Ra: I uploaded my first images to Fotolia back in January 2008. Since then, for almost four years, my portfolio grew very slowly. At the time I didn’t have enough time for shooting or to improve my photography skills. I also didn’t know what I wanted to achieve in stock photography.

Before you start, set your goals and decide what you want to achieve. Is it just a hobby or will it be your full-time career? What you do to begin with will probably depend on on how much time you can spend shooting. Learn the basics of stock photography: visit agency websites, see what images sell best, look at the portfolios of successful photographers, study forums, and read all the articles.

When you do finally start, be patient – don’t give up if your images don’t sell in the first couple of weeks; don’t give up if you have rejections (we all have images rejected!), don’t give up if there are days with no sales – building your own stock photography business, even if it is only a hobby, is a long process, but it rewards those who persevere and believe in success.

Fo: What began your interest in photography and what influences you still?

Ra: It was my passion for traveling. I lived for a few years in Ireland, a beautiful country with amazing landscapes, and constantly changing weather. There, I developed my photography skills and techniques, and now photography is a part of my every day life – I can’t imagine that ever changing.

I constantly strive for improvement, am always ready to learn new techniques, and keep looking for inspiration and new ideas.

Fo: Where do you live now and where are you originally from? What effect have these places had on your photographic style?

Ra: Currently, I live and work in Poland, and this is where I come from, but spending a few years in the “Emerald Isle” really affected my main photographic interest – landscapes.

I love traveling and will always have a passion for capturing beautiful scenery, no matter what other subjects I shoot.

Fo: If you could photograph a place or person from anywhere or anytime, what or who would it be?

Ra: A monk sitting high in the mountains in Tibet and contemplating, with the sun rising behind him…

Fo: What are your most popular images on Fotolia?

Ra: Recently my most popular images have been food – cuisines from around the world, such as French Salmon with Asparagus, Indian Chicken Curry, as well as some original Polish dishes. But one photograph, White Laptop and Coffee Cup, has been more successful then any other – it’s a simple picture of a laptop with a smartphone on the keyboard and a cup of coffee in the background.

Some photographs succeed, some don’t and often we can’t say why that should be. It depends on framing, lightning, subject arrangement, focus, and many other factors that designers look for.

If I knew exactly what they need I’d make only best-selling stock images!

Fo: If you hadn’t become a photographer what would you have done instead?

Ra: I’m passionate about music, high-end musical equipment (I have a very sensitive ear!) so would probably have become a sound engineer!

Fo: What tips can you offer to amateur photographers to get the best images possible?

Ra: Be creative and passionate, but also keep improving your skills and shoot as much as you can. There’s lots of good advice on Internet forums, books, and magazines. Check to see what sells and what’s new on stock photo websites. And very important: learn how to operate your equipment quickly and efficiently in order to achieve required effects.

And finally, if your main interest is in landscape photography, find a top-quality steady tripod, graduated natural density filters, and a polariser, and learn how to use these effectively.

Fo: Rafal, thanks so much for your time and all your great advice today.

You can see (and buy) a lot more of Rafal’s work on his Fotolia portfolio. He also has his own website, and you can follow his further adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.