Continuing on with the Stock-Wizards interview series, I’m happy to welcome to the blog, Ruben Ramos, an up-and-coming book cover photographer at Arcangel Images who has licensed ten book covers to date within just a few years. Ruben shares some valuable tips and insight until the very end. Let’s get started!
Hi Ruben, thanks for taking part in this interview – Let’s start from the very beginning of your professional journey. Please tell us about yourself, where you’re from and how you got started in book cover photography at Arcangel?
Hi Alexandre, the pleasure is mine!
I am from Argentina, but since 2013 I have lived in Greece with my Greek partner. I am musician, a soloist pianist who since 2014 has traveled around the world on board a cruise ship. I always liked photography, but in 2017 I started to build a portfolio in the most important microstock sites.
I was reading your blog as well as Steve Heap’s to get some tips. But in 2020, I was unable to travel, as the pandemic forced me to try something else. I was reading about your experiences with Arcangel and I saw the book cover photography industry as very creative and something that I could do. Therefore, I applied to be an Arcangel contributor and in August 2020 I was accepted.
You’ve amassed an impressive 1,299 accepted images on Arcangel in quite a short period of time. Any tips for those contributors starting out?
Well, Its took me two years and two months. I started with a 30% acceptance rate and now I am between 60% and 80% most of the time. During this time, your experiences and tips were super useful to me to be better.
This niche has a long learning curve but a very pleasant one. The rejection has been and is the best school. The best advice I can give is to see covers and learn how to see a photo as a designer. Also, specially for new contributors, is very useful to take photos for the Weekly Challengers from the Arcangel app. I know can be frustrating to wait a long time for the sales, but if you really like the book covers concept, it is worth to try, my motto is: Never Give Up.
I agree 100% in being persistent! Which was your first book cover sale?
I got my first sale in December 2021 with around 800 photos online after one year and 4 months. It was a book from USA. The woman is my photo on the left:
How many book covers have you sold via Arcangel? Would you kindly share some examples before and after? Also, super cool that we share a book cover together!
I’ve sold 10 covers until now, below are two of them with before and after:
That’s right, we share a book cover as they used your background in the final version with the model that I shot!
Where do you draw your inspiration for your excellent concepts? I’ve noticed many images featuring an attractive woman in the red dress.
Well, anything can be an inspiration, even just a wall. I love just to go out with my camera, walk around and look for some inspiration having in mine what can be useful for books. The Red color is important for covers. Even you have whiten about that in your blog. The model you have mentioned is a friend of mine that wanted to collaborate with me. I saw her one day wearing a red dress and I told her: Lets doing a shoot with that dress.
You’ve mentioned that you’re also a musician by profession as a piano player, I’ve noticed that you’ve created some of these types of concepts, any plans for more?
I just did some with a piano (see below) and others with a guitar and with my girlfriend. Maybe I will do more in the future.
Most of your images feature at least one model, are they professionals or do you use yourself and/or friends/family?
I love shooting with models. The human element is very important for me. All of them are myself, friends, family, and eventually some amateur models I have contacted by Instagram.
How do you scout the right locations? I see you shoot in many exotic locations.
I try to find a place with not distracting elements, mostly outdoors. Can be a park or abandoned houses too. Many of my shoot are spontaneous so I don’t have the time to choose a perfect location. So, I have got a collection of images like houses, stairs, doors, arches, skies, walls, etc. to modify the background and make the image more sellable.
Which types of concepts / scenarios do you enjoy shooting the most?
I don’t have a preference. When I travel on the cruise ship, I just go out and shoot what I feel may work. My last contract I was in Algeria and Morocco and I did enjoy the culture and people.
Do you have some technical tips for images to be accepted within the collection and eventually sold?
Well, it is always difficult in post-processing to know when to stop adding filters, color grading etc. Of course less is better than too much. But some times we have to risk and push and see what happens. That is the magic of the creativity. But it is sooo important that the image looks unique and not too standard that you can find easily in micro sites. Arcangel is an agency that value the work of the photographers and we have to honor that with our work.
I feel the same way and honoured to be an Arcangel contributor. Switching gears, what’s your go-to camera and lens?
I have a Canon 5ds, it is a fantastic camera that with 50 megapixels gives me a lot of room to crop. I use a tamrom 24 – 70 as standard and a canon 70 – 200 and a 50mm Prime to shoot mostly models.
Arcangel encourage only a light-touch post-processing. How far are you willing to push your post-processing? I see some you have pushed further than others, what drives your decision-making?
Well, on images that are editing for thrillers, I push more. I like dramatic sky and also to create a night scene. Many times I am on a location in daytime and I saw something that I imagine as a night scene. So this kind of images needs more job. Also I like to use houses and big villas, but I have to make a heavy edit changing doors, windows etc. to avoid releases. The same if I like an object with a busy background. I need to modify walls, delete logos, Brands etc.:
How optimistic are you about the future of the book publishing niche? Do you have future plans within this niche or any other types of photography projects?
Well, the thing in the digital media changes a lot every year. But I think will be always a need for images for books, Music, etc.
In this stage of my life I want to grow up my portfolio in Arcangel trying to be as good I can. In times where all is digital, I love to see my photos printed on books. Because, as someone said, an image only becomes a Photograph when is printed.
Thanks, Ruben for taking the time to bring readers valuable insight.
The pleasure is mine Alexandre, and thank you again for your fantastic blog and for being an inspiration for us.
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 and finally getting some regular sales. 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
Nice work with the bicycle image! Do Arcangel have challenges any more? Are contributors filling in keywords or do you leave everything to Arcangel?