Pics4ads is a self-taught photographer, artist and graphic designer from Eindhoven, Netherlands. Images illustrating Spa and Health themes are her hobby, and she’s made a great career from them. She has a lot of experience creating custom business cards, flyers, promotional rack cards, binders, greeting cards and even iPhone and iPad cases. Not so long ago, she started combining photography and design elements to expand her options – and she has succeeded at it. Pics4ads has sold over 700 files through Depositphotos, and many of them will look familiar to you, because her work is extremely popular among designers and advertisers.
We asked Pics4ads to share some of her experiences with us. She told Depositphotos a lot about her work, her feelings about “grab these images for free” sites, her favorite lovely poppies and a lot more.
Q: How did you start as a photographer?
A: When I was a teenager, I was a big fan of a band, and at every concert I took photos with a big and (way too) heavy Russian Zenit SLR. I was devastated when I moved, then discovered it had been stolen! I bought a new one, but due to some bad luck, that one was stolen as well, and the third one got left in a toilet after lending it to a friend. So, I gave up photography until a few years ago, after having been asked to take a digital photograph of someone. I’d never even held a digital camera, so I had no idea what to do, but it was point-and-shoot, and quite easy to handle. As soon as I took that shot, I knew I just HAD to buy a camera again. And I did. Unfortunately I made the mistake of choosing a point-and-shoot. The quality (at the time) was good, but I needed manual settings to play with. So, I ended up buying a Canon DSLR with a macro lens, and started taking images of insects.
Q: Do you have any favorite locations, objects or times for shooting?
A: I only do studio shots and product photography, and I usually take a whole day or afternoon/evening to finish what I have in mind.
Q: Why did you choose microstock as an option to sell your photographs?
A: My best friend kept telling me I should sell my pictures, so at some point I gave it a try. However, I soon learned that my insect images weren’t really in demand, so I bought two flashes and started taking images of products. I’m completely self-taught and it was a big challenge to get the lighting correct and get a feel of what microstock is all about. But I love to learn, so that never has been a problem
Q: Describe your work process:
What equipment do you use for photo shoots?
A: Almost all of my images were done with a Canon 40D, but after the shutter died, I upgraded to the 5D and a Canon EF 24-105mm f4 lens. I also own a Tamron 90mm macro f2.8 and Tamron 28-75mm f2.8. Aside from that I use two LumoPro LP 160 strobes and one Falcon Eyes studio flash with umbrellas plus a Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT tripod.
Do you have a photo studio? What does it look like? What is the most important thing in your photo studio – light/space/etc.?
A: You most likely do not want to see my “studio.” It’s the most basic and primitive thing one can imagine, but it works perfectly fine and I’m very happy with it. The only thing is, I would love to have my set-up somewhere else than in the kitchen, as it’s sort of in my way.
As for what’s the most important thing: lights, for sure!
Do you have any assistants? How many people are there in your team?
A: No, I don’t.
Do you have a schedule? How much time per day on average you dedicate to photography? Which tools for processing images do you prefer to use?
A: Yes, I do work with a schedule and I always plan my shoots extensively. So, before even picking up my camera, I know exactly what I’m going to do and how I’m going to do it. Not just the subject (obviously), but also how I’m going to illuminate it, etc.
On average, I spend 12 hours a day on photography, processing, designing and improving my techniques. Yes, that’s a lot of time, but I have an entire “future plan” worked out and I’m determined to achieve my goal, regardless of the amount of hours I need to put in. (I only sleep four hours a night, though.)
As for the processing tools… I use Photoshop CS2 for everything with a few plugins, such as Nik Software.
Do you observe any particular rituals in your work, or you are in a state of constant improvisation?
A: I always plan everything in great detail before I start, and never improvise. Of course, I constantly try new things, in order to improve my skills and techniques, and to get different effects, but there’s never any “just start and see what I end up with” improvisation involved.
Is photography for you a hobby or a profession?
A: My ultimate goal is to become a professional photographer/designer and make a living off my work. And that’s obviously the reason why I am spending every second I can on it.
Q: What are your predictions about the microstock photography industry for the next five years? What would you change in the microstock business, if you could?
A: That’s a tough one. I do believe there’s a future in microstock, but the competition is growing fast, and I think it will be harder and harder for us individual contributors to maintain the sales we are used to in the future. If I could change something, it would be the amount of people stepping (and being let) in. I would raise the bar to a much higher standard (for both new and existing contributors), and only accept the best images and designs. Some sites have hundreds of pages of, let’s say… strawberries, and many new ones are added day after day. Then I wonder: what’s a new image going to add to the database? Please don’t get me wrong… I do think new images of strawberries should be accepted, but only if they stand out. And I also think it would not hurt to auto-delete images older than three years without a sale. One agency already does this, and I think it’s a great idea, because IMHO, this will constantly improve the quality in their database, while it still gives buyers fresh… strawberries.
Q: At the moment, the best-selling photographs are related to business, sports, romance and family topics. What is going to change? What will be the next trends in the microstock industry?
A: I think business images will always be a best-selling subject, but judging from my own sales, I see a big increase in sales of design work. I guess that’s because designs are always unique and you can create about anything. Even things technically impossible, or close to it. Another reason could be that it saves the buyer a lot of time, because a lot of work is already done.
Q: What would you never place in your portfolio?
A: Some of my earlier images and designs that I have been deleting.
I.e., images and designs that show my progress, but not my current capabilities and skills. Of course I cannot (and don’t want to) delete everything that is not up to what I’m capable of now, but every six months I try to look at my work as a buyer, and if I would not be happy with the download, seeing it full-size, then I delete it from my portfolio.
Q: Which of your photographs is your favorite? Can you describe what it looks like?
A: I recently submitted this poppy design.
It’s a composite of three images and some design work in Photoshop, which is something I love to do! Not only because it’s really neat to create something that would be really hard to get done in real life, but also, because with every design, I learn new things. And again… I love to learn!
Q: What is an “ideal” photo for you? Where would you like to see it?
A: An ideal photo to me is something that catches my attention. Something that stands out from the other images I see. As for my own work, I used to look for my work being used, but after Google invented their “reverse image search,” I dare no longer do that. I found so many of my images on “grab these stock images for free” sites, that I’d rather not look for them anymore. But it’s still a great feeling to run across one of my images on a product or website (other then the aforementioned “grab it for free” sites, that is.
Q: List five things you would wish for any photographer, and five things you wouldn’t ever wish for any photographer.
A: Of course I wish for every photographer to be successful. And I wish for them to be able to work on a goal and achieve it without too many obstacles.
I wish for them to feel proud after seeing the results of their hard work (by reviewing download statistics or finding their work in use). And I wish they would get the recognition they deserve. For myself, all these things have always been a big motivation to keep pluggin’ along.
What I don’t wish for anyone is failing equipment, stolen equipment, discovering you forgot some of your equipment (the one experience I have I’ll never forget), finding your work being sold by another contributor or available for free on the aforementioned websites, not having a camera with you when there’s this “once in a lifetime” moment, and many other negative things (but let’s focus on the positive ones, shall we!?).