David Sandonato is primarily an illustrator, but his photos uploaded using Fotolia’s Instant app are pretty popular, too. He has designed club flyers, infographics, and is something of a specialist in image collections.
We asked David how he got started as a stock illustrator, but he was very happy to give us a lot of useful advice.
Fotolia: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you’re based, and how you became a stock image contributor?
David Sandonato: I’m from Trieste, Italy, and I’m an electronic engineer, but I feel more like an artist, that’s why I chose to work with my passions.
At the end of 2008 I read an article about microstock, and discovered you can sell illustrations as well as photos. I’m passionate about art and design in all its forms so decided to start learning the basics of vector design and download Corel Draw.
In just one week I’d made my first series of simple illustrations and joined my first agency, and I had my first downloads with my first submission! After that, I never stopped. I joined all the best agencies, including Fotolia, and it quickly became my full time profession as it is today (along with some app development for iOS devices).
Fo: What are the main ingredients for a fantastic photograph?
DS: I’m a better illustrator than photographer, but I have my own theory and thoughts on both.
I like it very much when pictures celebrate life in all its aspects and with all its colors. I enjoy panoramas and natural landscapes with unconventional colors, even modified or filtered after the shot.
Talking about illustrations, there’s really a lot to say. For a vector to sell it must be eye-catching and a little bit different from the average, but the subject must be something that is useful for a customer. I like to add in a lot of high contrast colors, and you have to think about that during the creation process – color combinations are key, but background and text are also important to the overall idea that your images is presenting to the public.
You must find your own way to succeed in a jungle of millions of files. Producing a large quantity of high quality work is a good way to start.
Fo: What is your favorite theme to photograph and why? Do you see photography as more of a hobby?
DS: I used to take a lot of pictures with my iPhone during my trips, and my favorite themes were always panoramas of nature, especially sunsets, when all the colors of the sky turn for a moment into something magic!
To give an idea of the beauty of the place I’m visiting I love to take 180 degree landscapes, capturing as much as possible of my surroundings.
Of course, at the moment my full time job is to create vector images; taking picture with my iPhone for the Instant Collection is little more than a hobby, but it’s nice to feel appreciated by the many customers who seem to like my panoramas!
Fo: How did you discover the Fotolia Instant App and how have you found it so far?
DS: I received a newsletter from Fotolia telling me I could upload pictures from iPhone to Fotolia.com using a new app called Instant. I love technology, and my iPhone is a useful tool that allows me to do a wide variety of things – included taking good pictures!
So I “instantly” installed the app and sent the first pics that I had in my gallery. It was very cool, and I tried it for a while. Once I understood the kinds of pictures that were approved, I started to see every view as a possible “panorama” to sell on Fotolia and today when I find a scene that capture my mind and eyes I simply stop what I’m doing and I take a picture that lately I’ll upload with instant on Fotolia.
Fo: Can you tell us about your favorite image from your Instant portfolio – where you were and why it’s your favorite?
DS: Actually, my favorite image is this one. I was in Santa Cruz close to the harbor at sunset. The colors created from the sun, the ocean waves, and the beach inspired me to take some panoramas and this picture represents exactly my favorite kind of shot, celebrating the peace and the magic of the moment.
Fo: Your Instant profile has a wide variety of locations in the subjects – where has been your most inspirational place to shoot so far?
DS: My job as a full time stock illustrator gives me a lot of freedom and opportunities to travel. I’m actually traveling now! My girlfriend and I are traveling through Colorado and California, and I’m discovering a lot of chances to take submit pictures with the Instant app. I liked taking a lot of pictures at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, but my favorite cities so far have been Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, where I was lucky enough to capture one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.
Fo: What advice would you give to anyone using the Fotolia Instant App?
DS: First, keep in mind the basic rules of RF agencies, so be in focus, remember that when you shoot landscapes you have to do it without people (you won’t be able to have a model release from everyone), and take pictures that you think could be useful for something.
Whenever you discover an inspirational view remember to hold on, take your time, and just snap away until you’ve reproduced on your phone the image you have in mind. After that, you’ll find a variety of apps that allow you to modify and adjust your pictures on your phone and play with it till you have the results you want, and then upload it with Instant.
Fo: Your Fotolia portfolio includes a lot of infographics – can you describe how you stay on trend with them and the research process that goes into designing them?
DS: As I previously said, making saleable vectors is my full time job, so I always follow actual trends.
In the last 18 months there’s been an infographic invasion, and I really like the variety and freedom of shapes and concept that you can develop. Usually half of my infographics follow the subject/theme that’s actually selling most on the market. The rest are simply the result of my fantasy and imagination.
Color combinations are important – you need to test different combinations because you never know which will be the customer’s favorite!
Fo: When you began selling stock images did you plan the images you would produce, or was it a case of trial and error and adapting to market trends?
DS: In the beginning I designed a lot of Discotheque/Club flyers because that was the subject that inspired me to start learning vector illustration basics. It gave me a lot of freedom with shapes and colors combination, and learned a lot doing all kinds of abstract stuff that you see in my creations.
After that, yes, it was adapting to the market trends. My thought was: if everyone is making vintage labels then I would like to be in the game with MY series of vintage labels, with my own style and theme. That’s how I started to build my portfolio.
Fo: What are your most popular images in your Fotolia portfolio? Why do you think they are so popular?
DS: My most popular images are my collections like these two, but I also have some single images that sell well (see the examples throughout this post).
Collections sell a lot because the customer has a large variety of quality choices, all fully customizable (that’s the power of vectors!) all related to a specific subject, and all for the price of a single image.
Talking about my other single subject images, I think people choose to buy them for a huge variety of reasons; for example, talking about a single infographic, they like the cleanliness and overall quality, they like the idea, they like the way I’m explaining a concept, they like color combinations, or they simple need all the elements included with the image.
Talking about my club flyers, I think people love the explosion of colors and energy that the images bring to the eye, they love the abstract shapes behind the speakers, or probably they can see the final version of the flyer for a night event with their own text.
In the end, I feel lucky because I love to design and create images, and this is not just a job for me, it’s one of my passions!
Fo: David, thank you very much for your time!
If you’d like to see (or buy!) more of David’s work then there’s plenty to see on his official Fotolia portfolio and on his Instant Collection. And if you’re really keen you can even follow him on Facebook!