Five Shutterstock and Offset contributors share how they improve their photographic eye and continually create images to draw in new clients.
Every single day, Instagram users upload ninety-five million photos. Sounds like too much? Nope, that number is just right. Taking snapshots has become our norm. From the food we eat to the stray cat we befriended to all the bathroom selfies—it’s like our day isn’t complete without taking a photo. And, it didn’t take long before businesses picked up on this. Coffee shops and boutique clothing stores, among others, have made sure their place is “Instagram-worthy,” especially for the influencers.
But influencers, content producers, and brands are learning it’s so much more than a cute photo. Audiences, in general, have more than enough daily doses of those cute photos and they want something else. They want something that sparks emotion. Question is, how do you capture images that connect? We spoke to five Shutterstock and Offset contributors to get a better sense about how one can improve their photographic eye and grow in this creative field.
1. Luciano Perbellini
“Photography is language. It expresses what the person is. It’s like a mirror of himself,” says Luciano Perbellini. A photojournalist, Perbellini has set his way to photographing with respect. “I love to know situations and then document the life of people who are very different from me and my way of life,” he shares, adding that, “if a man is a good man, his speech, his expression, will be just as good. If a photographer has mediocre tastes, mediocre culture, mediocre sensitivity, everything that photographer will communicate will be, if all goes well, mediocre.”
It may sound harsh, but if you come to think of it, it’s actually a good point. As a creative, our number one goal is to create. But, in order to create something that has an impact, we must be willing to explore outside our ordinary.
Perbellini describes good photography as something that excites or triggers a memory. “If it introduces you to something new, excites you, triggers a memory, if it changes your way of thinking and feeling, it is a good photograph.” For Perbellini, one of the best ways to become a better photographer is to open yourself to the world. “To build a better photographic language is to enhance yourself and tap into the world and into several humanistic disciplines.”
2. Aaron Amat
Aaron Amat started exploring photography back in 2008. Today, he has over one million photos on Shutterstock. “We specialize in photographing people. About sixty models pass through our studio every month and we produce a huge amount of images. Our favorite is lifestyle photography. We love to capture real scenes in real settings, if possible with models with real bonds like friends and families,” he shares.
Amat says that as a stock photographer, you can consider an image good when it makes a buyer “feel the desire to click the buy image button.” But, he further added that there’s a lot of creativity involved, as well. “The images must be authentic. The photographer has to be able to capture real emotions. The best images emerge spontaneously when models forget there is a camera. And, as photographers, we must create the environment in which the models can act freely and naturally.”
Amat’s advice to create and keep creating authentic and connective images is to “not stop trying new scenarios.” He shares that it’s important to constantly go out of your comfort zone to keep improving your photographic eye. This takes time, sure, but the more you do it, the more you’ll see the impact of doing something new.
“You end up developing a certain sixth sense to know what is going to work and what won’t, where to position the camera, what indications to give to the models, what equipment to use etc.,” he says.
3. Tatiana Aksenova
Tatiana Aksenova and her husband started photographing in 2007. Eight years later, they found themselves creating a Shutterstock account and exploring the possibilities of stock photography. She shares that photography is a subjective art and that a good photo is when “the author conveyed the idea so well in the picture that the viewer reads it and enjoys how this idea is expressed with the help of composition, light, shadow, and mood.”
Today, Aksenova shoots lifestyle photography and says being able to capture people and their emotions is what inspires her the most. But, this is not a skill one develops overnight. As cliché as it may sound, capturing those emotions on a still frame requires practice. And, you need to be gracious with yourself and give yourself the time to improve.
“To shoot life, you need to constantly be in it,” says Aksenova. “Visit new places, communicate with people of different ages and interests. You need to notice both successful moments and mistakes, and work to ensure that there are fewer failures,” she shares about advancing photographic skills.
Aksenova also says one must consider “radically changing the genre of shooting.” Say, if you’re a food photographer, consider shooting street imagery. “One may not reach any heights of mastery in street photography, but this will definitely advance him in shooting food—new ideas and vision will come.”
4. Min Mohd
“Go and achieve your vision regardless of what other people may say,” says Min Mohd. Inspired by great legends like Steve McCurry and Sebastiao Salgado, Mohd has been photographing for more than ten years now. She focuses on capturing everyday life of people and highlights the importance of having “your touch” in every image.
Thousands of people can take a photo of, say, the flatiron. But, to make your shot your shot, it takes skills. And, to make that shot stand out, it has to be more than just a photo. It needs to tell a story that the audience can relate or somehow connect to.
“Besides nailing the exposure and the composition of the image that you take, it needs to have a little bit of your touch,” says Mohd. “The images have to be your own vision—what you want to tell your viewers and the emotion you want your viewers to feel when looking at your image,” she added. Mohd also noted that in today’s era, where the bigger part of the world is on social media, keeping it low can be beneficial. “I think you need to quiet yourself and ask what is it that you truly love in your heart and go all out.”
5. Cristian Negroni
Seven years ago, Cristian Negroni picked up a camera simply because he wanted to “do something completely new.” Today, he has thousands of images on Shutterstock and has learned much about the business of stock photography. “In stock photography, sometimes it’s not important what kind of photo or video you like. It’s more important to understand what the market needs and what sells,” he says, adding that in order to create images that sell, you have to marry your technique and your vision. “The story you tell in the photo must be original and commercial.”
Negroni says it’s also important to stop yourself and ask why somebody would buy your photos. “You have to think like a buyer.”
This former bartender further noted the importance of learning as much as you can on the computer—editing techniques, exploring and improving your style post-production, buying online workshops—but more importantly, finding people in real life.
“Meet people in your field in real life,” he says. “And, ask questions.”
Cover image via Luciano Perbellini.
Discover more photography advice and techniques with these articles: