Brazilian photographer Luiz Antônio da Silva has been passionate about photography for three decades, since he began shooting beautiful and bucolic scenes featuring landscapes, nature, and wildlife in 1984. Falling into the craft almost by accident, Luiz took various photography courses, but also developed his technique from books, articles, magazines, and, of course, lots of practice. A Shutterstock contributor since 2006, he’s constantly in search of captivating images, while remaining highly selective about what makes it into his portfolio. We caught up with him to learn more about his style, history, and personal insight on how to succeed as a contributor.
Shutterstock: Your gallery focuses largely on the natural world. Would you say this is your milieu?
Luiz Antonio da Silva: Yes, definitely. I have dabbled in other topics, such as fashion and society, and done some good work, including CD covers, but my great pleasure and where I have achieved my best results is in photographing nature, landscapes, birds, and wildlife. My passion is for traveling to a place, contemplating it, and evaluating the various possibilities for capturing it. In places often photographed by thousands of people, I always try to find something previously uncaptured and attractive. I can spend hours in the same place to get a unique and different image.
How and why did you fall in love with photography?
I was about to get married, in 1984, when I went to a photography store with the intention of buying a camera to use on the honeymoon. I knew absolutely nothing about photography. The salesman showed me a reflex camera, the Praktica MTL-5, with a 50mm lens. I thought it was impressive and robust, but had no idea what I could achieve with it. I just bought it and started shooting. I read the manual, took various photos during the trip, and used up a lot of film. I took lots of unappealing photos, but nailed some. I discovered that, even without knowing exactly how, I had this ability to control things with my hands that would allow me to get good results.
When I picked up the developed photos at the lab, I realized I had done some things right and others wrong, and that I could make better decisions next time. That provoked a great interest in me. I began to study the subject. I took photography courses, started practicing a lot, reading a lot, and learning to admire the work of other photographers. That’s what I’ve done up until today. I try to keep up, study a lot, read a lot of articles, and observe the work of colleagues. Whenever I get the chance, I go around trying to get the perfect image.
Are there any tips you can share with other contributors about selling stock photos?
I always try to be aware of what the market is looking for — and the market is seeking, in most cases, images for commercial purposes. Often, a good image in the photographer’s opinion may not be interesting from a commercial point of view. I have images in my portfolio that I thought would be the most sought after, and often they’re not, while other, less attractive ones (in my view) lead to greater interest on the market. Combining the two things is always very interesting — blending your personal taste with what the market needs. Shutterstock offers very important features for knowing what people are looking for, like the most searched keywords, the images with the highest number of downloads, and information about the performance of your own portfolio.
How would you define your creative process?
I seek out information about places before traveling, such as climate; local attractions; if it has waterfalls, rapids, rivers, or beaches; and what time the sun rises and sets, among other things. I think it helps to start planning what to explore. If I’m going to photograph birds, for example, what type of bird will I find in the area? What foods can I use to attract them? When I reach the location, I evaluate if the conditions are favorable, and if the light is adequate. If it’s a very intense sun, causing very deep shadows, I try to wait, or even come back later at a time when the light is more diffuse with softer shadows.
I really like long-exposure photos, and looking for effects with seawater, rivers, waterfalls, or the wind blowing in plants. I try to do as much as possible when capturing things. I still use some filters that many may consider a thing of the past, such as polarizers, NDs, and graduateds. I respect contrary opinions, but I’d rather spend more time in the field on the capture itself than in front of the computer. I keep post-production to a minimum, just for basic adjustments and finishing.
What are your biggest inspirations?
There are many photographers whose work I admire and look to, but there’s one in particular who, when I see his work, I think “One day I’ll take a picture like that.” And that’s British photographer Guy Edwardes. I have his books, and I always turn to them and his images to inspire me. I love his style, and his images are just fantastic. Nature itself and traveling with my family are also inexhaustible sources of inspiration.
What’s the coolest trip you went on to shoot?
I’ve taken many cool trips, but if I had to focus on one, it would certainly be the trip I took to Paraty, in Rio de Janeiro, in 2006. The place is wonderful, and has a fantastic atmosphere. I had the pleasure of producing very rich photographic material — photos on the beachfront, at the historic center, in the woods, at waterfalls, in the day, in the afternoon, and at night. That place really inspired me. Even today, when I look at the pictures, I’m happy with the result. It was my first batch of photographs submitted to and accepted by Shutterstock. Some of those photos are among the most downloaded from my portfolio. I hope to have another opportunity to return to Paraty, now with a few more years of experience and maturity, to do it again.