Today I am featuring an interview with one of our most successful microstockers Diego Cervo who is now submitting macro RF imagery direct to moodboard. Here we ask Diego about how he got started and his progress from micro to macro. I think both of these stories are really inspiring to any photographers starting out in micro and we are really excited to share them with you.
How did you get started as a photographer?
Like other microstockers, photography was a huge passion that suddenly turned into a job. Before becoming a photographer I used to work as a legal advisor but trust me….it was such a boring job! One day while I was watching a photoshop tutorial on the web, I noticed the ads of a microstock agency. I was thrilled to sign in, acceptance was much less complicated compared to traditional agencies and the following week some of my photos went online. I didn’t have to wait too long for the first sale to come along.
How long have you been shooting for stock?
I started shooting for microstock in December 2005 and it took less than two years to quit my day job and work as a full time photographer. However, it was not easy to do both. Those days were simply hectic.
Do you feel being part of the microstock community has been beneficial to you?
Absolutely yes! People within the microstock community love to share their experiences and give tips. Anything from shooting and editing techniques to the submission stage, or just simply to complain about rejections. There is tons of stuff to learn in this job and the things you read in forums really help.
Do you have a team who helps with planning, shooting and editing your images?
Since January another person, Isa, joined me in the studio for planning and editing. She also does a great job on styling. On location there is always Erika, our hair stylist and make-up artist and depending on the shoot we may call on another assistant to have more hands on deck.
How many shoots do you aim to complete per month? Do you set yourself targets?
We do four to five shoots per month, delivering up to 100 images to agencies. We would like to do more, however, time needs to be allocated to assignments. When I’m back at the studio, I do consider myself a bit picky when selecting photos, even though I know that quantity counts a lot in microstock. Planning is certainly a stage that requires lots of effort. Instead of shooting subjects on a white background, we prefer to shoot models in real places which I believe helps in gaining more attention from buyers.
However, location scouting is really time consuming and sometimes it increases production costs significantly. It reminds me of when we had to find a chemist premises for some photos. It seemed that no pharmacist wanted to rent their premises for half a day! Furthermore we were looking for a place big enough to use long focal lengths and small depth of field to blur trademarks in the background and keep cloning to a minimum. Thank God sales were worth the effort…
What do you love most about your job?
Everything….but keywording!! That is a task that we outsource to Shannon Routhzahn, a brilliant keyworder who previously worked for SuperStock. Anyway, you can’t imagine how lucky I feel to be a photographer. This is one of the few jobs that one does for real passion, not because you simply “like it” or just for the money. When I think of my previous job and the thought of doing that job for another 40 years, makes me shudder!!
I love stock photography more than any other kind of photography as it is less stressful. I am aware of this every time I finish an assignment and I focus back to stock. I feel a kind of relief! I don’t mean it’s an easy job as there are tons of things to do and time is never enough. When you work on location the unexpected may happen and a simple shoot may turn into a complicated one. I think that every photographer could fill pages with unforeseen events…
You have been very successful with selling your images, do you think you will continue to shoot microstock or would you like to explore other opportunities in photography?
Microstock has proven to be a good business for me but there are no reasons to stick only to it. We recently received encouraging results from some macrostock agencies, for which we are working on a portfolio ad hoc. Also it’s really nice to see some of my work placed in the moodboard macro RF Premium collection.
No doubt that in the future we will focus on traditional networks (e: RM and RF) without overlooking microstock. More and more often it happens that microstock photographers are entering the macrostock market and vice versa. This seems to me to be a natural trend.
What advice would you give to somebody just starting out in microstock?
I’m sure that a few years ago it was a little easier to make a living from microstock. Agencies’ quality controls were not so strict and there were less images to compete with. Today, if you type “businessman” on the search page of any of the top microstock agencies you get around 100.000 pics. Impressive!
As I mentioned earlier amongst competitors there are not only excellent microstockers but also macrostock photographers who have seen opportunities in this market. Not to mention that many hobbyists invested their royalties to buy better equipment, thus delivering images with better quality.
Nevertheless, there are still many things to explore. Conceptual images work well and some subjects are not so exploited. For instance, last June we noted a few images of mechanics in a car repair shop either fixing a car or talking with clients. A few weeks later we rented a location, bought clothing and hired a couple of models. As a matter of fact, this shoot is working out really well.
Deb Henderson is an Art Director with photo library moodboard in London. Having studied film and photography at university she went on to pursue a career working with images and has previously worked at Getty Images as a Picture Researcher. Deb has worked on moodboard’s blog the factory since October 2008 featuring interviews and showcasing the work of artists and photographers from all over the world.
Moodboard is a UK based stock photography company that delivers simple search, clear price pointing and optimum quality images. It was launched by Mike Watson (who was CEO of the award winning royalty free agency Digital Vision which sold to Getty for $165m) and a number of other ex-Digital Vision senior personnel.