Mario AV, one of our top contributors, turned his life around when he started selling his photography. From a boring and drenching 9-5, he was able to start his own business and succeed in a way that many deem impossible.
Today Mario shares some insights about how he got into stock photography, what you really need to succeed and tips about starting out. Getting into stock photography isn’t easy, and your efforts might not pay off right away. If you focus on what’s really important, you’re setting yourself up for a business that not only pays the bills but also feels rewarding in the process.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your professional career.
Hello everyone, my name is Mario and I’m a 31 year old adventurer who wasted most of his life on boring office work but suddenly woke up and decided to change something.
Back then, I had many friends that were already in the stock photography business. Time and time again, they would tell me about the opportunities I would have if only I started selling my images online.
I was afraid to start something new as many people would. At one moment, I felt so disappointed by my work environment that I closed all my daily routines and fully concentrated on stock photography.
I had experience in working as a photographer and a retoucher for magazines and advertising agencies so all I needed to do is just finally make beautiful pictures the way I felt was right.
There is a lot of craftsmanship as the theme in your photographs. Do you pursue any other art forms besides photography?
I am a very addictive and curious person who finds inspiration everywhere and want to know as much as possible. Also I enjoy fixing old things and not throw them out immediately. So, yes I have many hobbies just because I always learn something new — from cooking and coffee brewing to assembling and disassembling electronic devices.
What is your artistic philosophy or your philosophy on approach to your work?
I love clean images. I suppose it is because of my background in the advertising business. I also love to capture moments in a journalistic-like lifestyle photography; pictures that are often being rejected just because many photos were taken in motion and have some blur. I found another way to bring it in my work through footages I started to do.
Was it difficult to break into the business of stock photography? When did you find success?
Yes. The first time it was mostly insane because for the first 3-4 months, it felt like I was working for nothing. I had no idea what to do, but had to keep my expenses for flat renting, food, food for my dog and make some investments in equipment and shooting scenes. After 1 year, I was able to breathe in relief and finally felt a break. My income covered my expenses and I had money to pay off some debts and even make savings.
From your experience, what has worked really well for you in terms of sales?
Most popular pictures from my portfolio were set of generic photos with me wearing blank t-shirts. Those pictures seem perfect to use for labeling and attaching your own design on t-shirts to promote various prints.
What is your favourite photograph or project?
From my portfolio, I love the set of photos I made for coffee lovers — I asked my friends, professional roasters and baristas, to help me with this and we made every picture very precisely, saving the beauty of the processes of different brewings.
You have a very distinct aesthetic in your portfolio. Do you have advice for photographers looking to develop their personal style?
Thank you! I think a personal style comes with personal experience. If you work a lot, you have more experience and better content and if you educate yourself through movies, music or all other forms of art, it will all inevitably influence to you and the work too. Personal style comes with it.
Are there any new trends that you see emerging in stock photography?
I guess I see trends more or less in the last few years — new technologies, where they bring humanity and the opposite — escaping from all those crowded cities, living life full of adventures and sharing it. The only changing element is the way you portray it: aerials, action cams, gimbals, different angles and the like.
What’s been the biggest mistake you’ve had to learn from during your career?
The biggest mistake was investing too much money in equipment – I didn’t even need it and barely used it. Never do that. All you need to start is just a good camera (good doesn’t mean expensive!) and a zoom lens like 20-70mm or similar. In 90% of the case, it is more than enough!
Your #1 photography tip or words of wisdom:
Keep it clean. Keep it simple. Capture the moments, not the people.