Ciao Fabio and welcome to the blog! Firstly, please tell us about yourself and how you got started with photography and in particular, stock photography?
Ciao Alex, pleasure to be here! I’m an Italian travel photographer and blogger. I started with photography after a trip to Rome. Can’t really remember what got me started but I do remember that it soon became my favorite hobby.
I started with stock photography about 10 years ago, almost by chance. I didn’t have any clue of what I was doing but I remember reading somewhere that it was possible to make money by selling your pictures, so I gave it a try.
At first, I didn’t sell much, which prompted me to improve my skills. Then started to sell a bit more which gave me more confidence. The main goal was to create an alternative stream of revenue in case I wanted to quit my job in the future. Here’s an early pic from a trip to New York in 2012.
I can relate at how it’s important to try to be professionally independent. From the bio section in your blog, you’ve mentioned that in 2014 you made a courageous move to Eastern Asia, could you please elaborate on the moves?
I was quite tired of working in an office, doing something I didn’t like, having to ask for free time (my time to begin with) and as I said in the previous question, I was planning already to find alternative sources of income. So one day I just decided to do it: I moved to Taiwan. I stayed there for a year, then moved back to Italy for a few months and then moved to China. It’s getting more difficult for foreigners to stay in China, but I’ve definitely enjoyed my time here.
I can certainly relate about working bullshit soul-crushing corporate jobs! So, you’ve traveled to 38 countries, which have been your top-3 most interesting locations and why?
Tough question: probably Jordan for the amazing food, see a travel blog post on top places to visit in Jordan.
Which is the most profitable for you in terms of licensing content for microstock? Also, which types of genres would you say tend to sell better than others?
Surprisingly Rome. I say surprisingly because there is a lot of competition and when I travelled there, I didn’t expect the series to be my best seller but I was wrong.
I mainly shoot landscapes and very rarely wildlife and portraits, so in my case landscapes are also the best sellers. As a landscape photographer I’d have imagined that sunrises and sunsets would be the best sellers but analyzing my sales that’s not the case. My best seller are often landscapes shot during the day, with clear blue skies.
I also find that clear days with blue sky are my strong sellers. I see you have just under 400 clips on Shutterstock, do you have many sales?
I used to sell more often and, more importantly, the average price per clip sold was pretty good. In the last couple of years I haven’t actually sold many videos on SS, and the revenue as plummeted.
Which would be your three favourite shots of all time and why?
The first one is a sunset picture of the Twelve Apostles in Australia. It’s my favorite picture because I was planning that shot for months, then right before renting a car to drive there my DSLR broke and I had to buy a secondhand camera, which was very stressful since at the time I could barely speak any English.
Then when I got the Great Ocean Road (the area where the Twelve Apostles are located) it basically rained for days so I started to think I wouldn’t be able to take the picture since I only had planned one afternoon there. But eventually everything worked out and the sun came out.
The second shot is technically not a great shot since I didn’t have a lens long enough. It’s a shot of a Snow Leopard eating a Blue Shit in Qinghai, China, on the Tibetan Plateau. You can only imagine how hard it was to take that picture.
Finally, I’m really attached to a picture I took in Taiwan of a pagoda at night. I’m in love with that picture because it remind me of the time I used to live there.
I see you have many excellent portraits (Editorials), do you often approach the subject and ask to take a picture or do you prefer the more candid approach…or both?!
I usually ask the subject if it’s OK for me to take a picture. But there are some places where I know that people will say no, for example in Tibet so in those cases I simply use a zoom lens.
Which is your go-to gear when you’re out traveling?
My gear is somehow old. I’m still shooting with a Canon 70D and an old 10-22mm which I know will make some photographers cringe, but it is what it is. I also use a 24-105 and when shooting wildlife pictures a 100-400. Until very recently I also owned a DJI Mavic 2 Pro but I sold it and I’m saving some money to get a new drone.
How about drone photography/videography, how’s that going for you? Are there many restrictions in China?
Surprisingly China is way more relaxed in terms of regulations, at least for now, compared to Europe. All you need to do is register the drone using an app and that’s pretty much it. The number of drones you’ll see in China in touristic spots it’s insane. There are some restrictions though. For example, foreigners are not allowed to even bring a drone into Tibet and city centers of First Tier cities such as Shanghai and Beijing are now no fly zones for everyone. I expect the regulations to become way stricter in the coming years. But so far, it’s been quite easy honestly.
Resources: Drone regulations post at Fabio’s blog.
Which are some of the best-earning agencies and if you don’t mind disclosing, how much do you earn you average per month?
Personally Motion Array is one of the best for me in terms of monthly revenue (the average price per sold file is one of the lowest though and their upload and review system are terrible ). Adobe is also doing OK. Shutterstock, at least for me, is basically dead.
It’s worth noting that I’m seeing sharp drops in earnings for all agencies, particularly in the past few years.
Please tell us about the new Italian agency, Gallerist, that you have uploaded just over 500 images…do you think they’re worth uploading?
Gallerist is a brand-new agency that is planning to introduce a new royalty model of a fixed 1€ per sale. At the moment the agency hasn’t fully launched yet and they are still working out some technical details of their website. I definitely hope they’ll become successful but I’m very well aware of the challenges that creating a new stock photography agency poses. After they will launch their website, I think it’s worth giving it a try.
I foresee great things at Gallerist and have also begun uploading. How do you foresee the future for the type of work you produce, both from a personal and financial point of view? Are you confident you may be able to cover your travel costs with microstock earnings?
I’m generally very optimistic but due to the experience I have in this industry and due to the general economic situation, I’m not sure stock photography will remain profitable for me. On top of that most agencies don’t really care about their contributors and keep reducing the commissions so I’d be surprised if any time soon the situation will improve.
What are your future plans in terms of events you’d like to shoot in let’s say the next 12 months? It seems that COVID restrictions are still harsh in China while Europe has almost completely opened up…
I haven’t planned anything yet mostly due to the fact that China is still currently closed. One of my main goals was to visit Tibet and I just did, so I’m very happy with that for now.
As for COVID, while during the pandemic China used to be the safest place with almost zero restrictions, at least in the province where I live, now it’s going in the opposite direction, despite the scientific evidence that COVID is not so dangerous anymore. So, I think the next 6 months will be crucial for me to decide what to do. I want to travel back to Italy, and I miss a bit of the life in Europe, so my current plan is to just go back for a while and enjoy the good old continent.
Thank you, Fabio. It’s been a pleasure having you on here and wish you success both personally and professionally!
I’m an eccentric guy, currently based in Lisbon, Portugal, on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage. I’ve devoted eight years to making it as a travel photographer / videographer and freelance writer. I hope to inspire others by showing an unique insight into a fascinating business model.
Most recently I’ve gone all in on submitting book cover images to Arcangel Images. Oh and also recently purchased a DJI Mavic 2s drone and taking full advantage.
I’m proud to have written a book about my adventures which includes tips on making it as a stock travel photographer – Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography