Photographers and videographers have a new avenue of high-quality stock footage to explore. Here’s how Bevan Goldswain of Aila Images is setting trends in this growing industry.
London-based cinematographer Bevan Goldswain has been inspiring Shutterstock with his high-quality footage stock content since his first video submission nearly a decade ago. No stranger to the camera, photography was a family passion that started when his wedding photographer father passed him his first camera from a young age. As a Shutterstock Select artist, Aila Images‘ Bevan inspires our team through his collections of model-released stock footage, and his ability to capture subjects so powerfully.
As one of the first Shutterstock Select contributors, Bevan will be using the platform to showcase his high-quality footage collection to people around the world. Through his video collection, expect to be inspired by the raw emotion captured in his clips, his intense use of both his technical skill and creativity that’s amplified with the high-quality equipment he uses to deploy his art.
We caught up with Bevan about his creative process as a cinematographer, his thoughts on being a Shutterstock Select contributor, and where he wants to develop his art to. Here are a few words with the London-based cinematographer and co-founder of Aila Images, Bevan Goldswain.
We’d love to know about you and your work at Aila Images, Bevan. How did you get started shooting stock footage?
I’ve been into photography since I was really young. My dad was a wedding photographer, so I grew up around cameras. It was a natural progression. My parents also ran an advertising agency and they bought stock back in the ’90s. You used to get these big old books that agencies would send you where you would buy an image, and then send you a slide in the mail.
What a unique perspective. How were you introduced to Shutterstock?
A Russian couch surfer who stayed with us (Ondine and I). He was shooting stock, and got me signed up. There were sign-up incentives, and he was very keen on getting us involved. I remember him explaining the concept to me, showing me his photos of monkeys saying, “This is my monkey, it makes me $5 a day. Until someone uploads a better monkey. Then it might only make $1 a day. Then I have to go and shoot an even better monkey.”
What got you interested in shooting stock videos?
My wife, Ondine, and I have been shooting stock since 2009/2010. We met in a film school, and after dabbling on the still side of stock, we thought about the video side which was basically nothing at the time. The top selling video was something like a guy hitting a golf ball into the sunset. There wasn’t much going on, so we thought why not focus on this instead of competing with a very established still market. And it paid off.
Is that need in the market for quality footage what got you started in creating Aila Images together?
Yes. So we started off by submitting on individual accounts as Ondine was doing a bit more photo retouching, and stock was a project on the side. It got to the point where it was bringing enough in that we thought “Let’s combine and do this together.”
You work with your wife quite closely. How does that partnership influence your work?
The work is not mine, it’s both of ours. Ondine and I have done this together since we started. Every project has both our fingerprints on it. We have different strengths, and both of us admit we couldn’t have done any of this without the other. Ondine is a very decisive director, with an exceptional eye for composition whereas I tend to focus more on lighting.
With your background as a photographer, how does that influence your style when it comes to filming?
I think it’s helped us to keep our shoots lightweight and nimble. In stills, you are lighting, composing and directing. Coming from that background reminds me that it’s possible to multitask which keeps our crew numbers down and helps make our sets more intimate. Smaller, more intimate sets tend to get a better performance from actors and also tend to be more fun.
You were born in South Africa and now reside in London. What brought you to London? How did that influence your work?
I figured, let’s travel across the world and see something different. It was more a desire to travel than anything else.
Living in London is a real privilege. Being in any large city enables you to see global culture shifts quite quickly, which helps us to better represent contemporary culture in our work.
London seems to be a great place for a creative career to start. Let’s talk about your equipment. What gear are you using to make and provide footage clips to Shutterstock Select?
We either use our RED camera or ARRI cameras. Because they are the best. We originally got the RED because around 2013, it was really the only high-end camera that came in that size and as light as it is. Back then, the smallest ARRI camera you could get was a tank. It was huge. So that’s why we started with the RED.
Being nimble on-set seems to be important to you and your team. Is it because you work with a lot of models on location?
We work on location as much as we can. Coming from a stills world, we recognized how important it is to keep performances authentic and that you keep costs down if your gear is small and light.
There are obvious limitations, as we do more challenging or ambitious professional shoots where you need more gear and more people. But, we still try to keep it as small as possible.
How important is photography technology to the work that you do as a videographer?
What makes one shot better than another? What would you highlight as necessary to shooting great footage?
Only the client can really answer this. Every detail matters, and there are thousands of elements that make up your shot. The quality of the end product is a measure of how many compromises you made, of how many elements you got lazy with and gave up on.
You shoot a lot of work with models. Tell us about that process for stock. Do you primarily use hired models to make videos? Or do you hire friends and family?
We started off using friends and family, but favors can get awkward quickly. I wouldn’t recommend it. We always try shooting with the best models possible. We put emphasis on acting ability over good looks, as there are lots of great-looking photo models that struggle to give realistic performances for motion work.
Do you and Ondine work with a lot of the same people on your set crews?
When you find the good ones, you keep them. It’s important to have a good crew who understand stock. Who get what it is, and are happy to shoot it. People can struggle to get their heads around stock. They are used to shooting specific content, for a specific brand, for a specific brief. When there isn’t an exact outline of what there is to do on set, some people don’t know what to do. And when you have free rein that what you create could be for anyone, that it could be for any soft drink, not just a specific brand—some people struggle with that.
There definitely is creative freedom when creating videos for stock, and multiple use cases that that such footage can be used for.
That’s what it is. It’s multiple use cases. Sometimes on set, we’ll hash out a shot list and we’ll commission a team to shoot it. Then Ondine and I will be on set guiding and ensuring things go according to plan. It’s the things you DON’T plan for, that sometimes the team you commission don’t see the value of the unplanned shot. Whereas Ondine and I will set it, and think “Oh my gosh, you have to shoot this now. Someone hit the red button!” Because there’s value there, with whatever that shot is. There are a lot of different ways you can play with a shot for multiple use cases.
It’s about explaining to people what creating stock footage is. How do you explain that to people you work with?
We still have some friends that don’t know what we do. They ask if business is good, or if we’re getting a lot of clients. After explaining so many times what we do, and what stock is, a lot of people still really struggle with it. There’s quite a big stock industry in Capetown, and there’s a lot of great stock photographers here. The crew in Capetown really understands the industry, and what stock is, and the models, for the most part, are clued up.
Do you find there’s a strong stock videography community in Capetown?
I wish! But no, there isn’t really. There are the big ones, and we have friends who submit to stock video platforms. My brother and his wife submit to Shutterstock. That’s the community.
Where do you seek inspiration for your work? How do you come up with new ideas?
You should always be inspired, and always create work that inspires. If you are seeking inspiration, then there is something quite close that you are not seeing.
Tell us about why you decided to join Shutterstock Select, our premium footage offering?
There was a very big demand for video for a time, and almost anything we shot did well. That time is over. There’s a lot of contributors making a factory of it, getting the costs down. They are producing a lot of videos as quickly as they can. We’ve dabbled in that side, but it’s not fun. Everything we were passionate about for shooting great content got stripped away when we started to work like a factory. We’d much rather shoot less, and shoot better.
I think there is huge value in a curated collection of premium footage. There is so much stock footage out there right now, a lot of average stuff, a lot of fairly good work. But there is a very small percentage of high-end cinematic quality stock footage, and the high-end stuff that we produce, we don’t want getting lost in a sea of content.
We have in the last two years shifted gears entirely, focusing only on high-quality premium content creation, to serve a market that needs powerful imagery to tell their stories.
The people we’ve hired and the people we work with are all people who want to be the best in the world. They wouldn’t be satisfied with themselves if they stopped aiming for that. If we started aiming for how many clips we can push out of a factory, it just isn’t us.
Absolutely. So it’s changing the way people purchase stock, and the way people create stock.
Yes, so that’s something we’re really excited about. Not just a curated selection of high-quality motion content. I’m hoping it’s a different experience when you go to Shutterstock Select as a client. A better buying experience. The idea of having multiple clips within a shot, so you can match clips within that scene and make it clear for buyers.
We shoot content that’s designed to be cut together and as a buyer, you don’t really see that unless you get lucky. We would love to shoot a whole story, a whole commercial. Then people can license them as a whole bundle.
We want to be shooting less, but better. All the time. The industry will go that way because what it costs to produce a high-end commercial is a lot of money and it is cost effective to use stock. It was easier to get stills to that point. And with video, there was a big gap.
What about the program are you most excited for?
Adding value to clients that are in search of the right content for their brand. We took a trip to Shutterstock HQ in New York last year, and we saw some of our work on a commercial in Times Square. It’s very rewarding to be working with premium brands on artfully executed campaigns.
What type of content do you post on Shutterstock?
Go have a look. It’s not easy for me to describe our work in my own words.
Do you have any tips for cinematographers who want to create higher quality stock footage?
As Karl Lagerfeld says: There are no secrets, just hard work. Live a good life, don’t drink, don’t smoke, all that helps.
Bevan’s collection of Shutterstock Select footage features his stunning, premium footage content that continues to inspire audiences around the world. Aila Images‘ videos on Shutterstock Select were created using cinema-grade cameras and lenses.
Here at Shutterstock, we’ve seen increasing demand from customers for this kind of top-quality content. To keep our place as the industry leader for stock footage, we’ve launched Shutterstock Select as a new home for premium content. Explore Aila Images‘ full collection on Shutterstock Select here, and click here to learn more about Bevan and Aila Images.
If you’re a videographer interested in improving your skills, and in potentially being the next Select contributor, we encourage you to keep uploading high-quality footage clips, and honing your craft on Shutterstock. We can’t wait to see what you create next.
Featured image by Aila Images.
Interested in shooting high-quality footage for stock? Check out these articles:
- VIA Films’ Daniel Hurst on Premium Footage for Shutterstock Select
- Introducing Shutterstock Select: Premium Footage Shot on Top Tech by Industry Pros
- A Guide to Understanding Film Production Lingo on Set
- Industry Thoughts: When Can You Call Yourself a Filmmaker?
- How to Easily Color Match Any Two Cameras in Post-Production