Which Types of Stock Images are ‘Trending’?

Hey fellow microstock grinders!

I often get asked ‘which types of images sell best’. That’s a tough question to answer right off the bat, but a starting point is to ask yourself which types of images are ‘trending’.


Turn on your national news broadcast at 22:00 and watch carefully. Which types of stories tend to come up regularly in June 2017? Probably something related to the following:

  • Fear, War, terrorism and religious divisions
  • Similar to the above: Polarised Politics
  • Business
  • Some technology piece
  • Some piece about medical breakthrough
  • Celebrity news

Then there’s the weather and sport. Rinse and repeat.

What is popular in the news bulletin suggests what may also be popular with buyers at various stock sites. These may be both commercial and editorial images but obviously leaning more towards the editorial side of the scale.

I’ve started thinking more intelligently about which types of images to focus on with some success, here’s some examples:

Fear, War, including terrorism

The following are super easy editorials and proven sellers. Find a famous landmark and include security personnel in the foreground.

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High security at Westminster in London after a series of terrorist attacks to hit the capital in the first half of 2017

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High security at Milan’s Piazza Duomo

Polarised Politics and ‘Islamophobia’

In times of economic crisis, people’s political views become more extreme both to the left and right. Try to capture the current political situation in your editorials and perhaps even commercial images. A growing trend at the moment appears to be, unfortunately, xenophobia and ‘islamophobia’. This tension is manifesting itself in less than desirable ways and just playing into the radicals’ hands.

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English Defense League, a far-right wing political party rally in Birmingham, UK

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Although this image was shot in the UK, it has sold numerous times in the US as there’s a growing trend of “islamophobia”

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As long as there’s dialogue there’s hope. Everyday Sunday people gather near Marble Arch in Hyde Park, London to discuss politics, religion, philosophy…leading to some lively debates but rarely violence

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Refugees at Milan’s Central station to highlight the refugee crisis happening in Europe

Some new technology piece

Less controversially, showcase some new technology and submit as an illustrative editorial. Or perhaps it can be shown in a such way that may be submitted as a commercial image, for example by removing trademarks (also removing the ‘home’ button from the phone’, thus making the piece of technology more generic.

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A man operating a drone in the desert

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Man holding a selfie stick overlooking Venice

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Futuristic Coop supermarket in Milan, Italy

Business

This is a wide topic. Focus on what’s going on in the business world. One example would be the current Alitalia bankruptcy. I went to the nearby airport and shot some images of Alitalia airplanes taking off which have been used in editorials about the recent bankruptcy.

Alitalia commercial airplane takes off from MIlan's Linate Airpo

Some piece about medical breakthrough

Unfortunately, I don’t have many of these types of niche images but working on ways! I do have a friend who is a biologist so perhaps I may capture some model-released specialist medical images.

Capture

Celebrity news

Likewise, I’m not a paparazzi and not interested in this type of images, but there’s a huge following for what celebrities are eating and wearing when out and about in a major city. If you’re so included, there’s some serious coin to be made.

Milan fashion

Good luck with your shots and hope I’ve given you some ideas – I got into a lot more detail in my book which you can purchase below.

Alex

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Extended license download today!

Hey fellow microstock grinders,

Happy to announce today that I had an extended license downloaded at Shutterstock earning me a nice $84 (equivalent to 240+ subs). These don’t happen that often (enough) but once they do, they bring a big smile to my face.

If you’re not familiar, an extended license is required for use with larger audiences (500,000+ reproductions) and for use in merchandise for sale.

If you’re curious, here’s the image:

crops in andes

Crops 4,000 metres high up in the Ecuadorian Andes

Lots of Extended License downloads this month at Shutterstock

I’m on pace for my best-month ever at Shutterstock, in part thanks to 5 other extended license downloads (ok much lower amounts but it does add up). Here are two ($15 each):

red boat

Lake Garda, Italy

empty squash court

Boring image of a squash court

Tips to increase your changes to earn from an extended license

Microstock industry can be quite random. Images can sit there for months and not even be downloaded for subs, which can be frustrating. Then suddenly have a huge download as the mountain image. To increase your odds of earning a large sum from an extended license, simply:

  • Submit your images at the highest resolution possible! This will make it easier for buyers to want to use that image for 500k+ reproductions. Smaller resolution images just won’t cut it.
  • Keep an eye out on trends, especially in the editorial sphere. If a publisher NEEDS an image asap, he/she may be willing to pay top dollar for it, especially if it will go on multiple print runs (i.e. a national newspaper).

Best of luck!

Alex

Author of the Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography, purchase your copy today with the link below!

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Limited time only deal – Buy my book and get a critique of 5 of your stock images for FREE!

Hey fellow photography grinders,

I’ve decided to share the love and I’ve put together a new offer, which lasts until the 30th of June. Thereafter, I’m off to the beach.

So here it is: Buy a copy of my book and I’ll critique 5 of your stock images. I’ll tell you whether:

  • whether they have commercial value;
  • how to improve them technically;
  • which agencies I would recommend to submit; and
  • even which key words to use to make sure buyers find your image among the masses.

For those that already bought the book, msg me and I’ll still help you out with the critiques 🙂

Here’s what some top Microstock photographers have said about the book.

Take advantage of this limited offer now!

Airplanes at Linate, Milan2

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Good luck with your shooting!

Alex

Getting over your fear of photographing strangers!

Dear fellow photography grinders,

As mentioned earlier, if you’re looking to increase your earnings from stock photography, it’s a good idea to start including people in your frame. 

If you’re shooting editorial images, as I do, photographing people is fundamental. If you’re the shy type, like me, it’s all about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

People acting spontaneous are the best

In a public space, I don’t believe in the advice to ask someone for their opinion before taking a picture, which is also known as ‘Street portraiture’. When I have in the past, I later regretted since the image looked less than authentic. There’s even a psychological phenomenon that people act differently when they know they are being photographed, known as the ‘Hawthorne Effect’.

Naples15

Looks too staged imo

Indigenous in a market at Otavalo, Ecuador

Genuine interactions are most powerful, such as this one in Otavalo, Ecuador

Milan fashion

Models in Milan, Italy

Not everybody likes getting their picture taken without their permission

Tough break. As long as you’re not breaking any laws (check in the country you’re shooting), it’s within your right to take their picture, but don’t be an asshole about it.

dubai women

I was extremely careful photographing strangers (especially women) in Dubai, UAE to avoid getting in trouble

Whenever people have got upset at me for taking their picture, I’m polite, apologise and walk away. Not my fault they’re so photogenic, like this dude below.

fruits in market4

This dates market seller in Jerusalem wasn’t happy about me taking a picture of their interaction

Often when I’m doing my post-production I see strangers’ uncomfortable expressions staring right back at me, like this dude in Parma.

concerned

As a last case resort, shoot from the hip and put your camera on ‘quiet mode’

If you’re feeling really uncomfortable try the above advice and thank me later. However, no guarantee that your image will be in focus, so make sure you try ‘zone focusing’.

Good luck with your shooting! Click below to purchase a copy of my book, the Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography with more tips on shooting editorial street photography.

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Why I choose to embrace ‘subscription’ downloads at Microstock sites!

Hey fellow photography grinders,

The number one complaint I hear from fellow contributors to Microstock sites is that their stock images should be yielding much more than 25 cents per download. I hear them, but I feel that many fail to really understand the Microstock subscription plan business model, how to take full advantage of its strengths.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, what the hell is this ‘subscription plan’?

One parallel is the popular Netflix business model, where users pay a flat monthly subscription costing $9.99 (or similar) for unlimited viewing pleasure. In stock photography, it’s not much different.

The client pays a monthly fee, varying from $50 to $250 (depending on the plan & agency), for a maximum number of RF downloads per month. Simple and easy to use and that’s why clients love them.

At the higher-end subscription plans costing upwards of $200, customers would be able to download over 700 RF images a month! These volumes are probably reserved to marketing / publishing businesses as an average blogger has no need for that many images.

Here’s a general breakdown of subscription plans between Microstock Agencies:

subs

Let’s face the facts, subscription commissions are low!

I’m not going to sugar coat it, the commissions per download are small,  generally around 25 – 40 cents / per downloaded RF image. Probably took you a lot more investment in terms of time and expenses to produce those images to earn a pitiful 25 cents.  I mean, that’s not even enough to buy a cup of coffee.

Red light.jpg

Such low commissions is often a deal-breaker for contributors

Leave your ego at the door

Take a deep breath and think things through.

The good news is that once your images are accepted, assuming they have some commercial value, they should be regularly downloaded under the subscription plan. When I see regularly, I mean multiple times a day for months/years to come. Do the math and those 25-40 cents do add up and quite quickly!

In fact, in my previous blog where I outline my top 5 best selling images at Shutterstock, they combine for a total of around 1200 which equates to a nice $436 and growing everyday. Now, I strategically didn’t include any mention of on-demand downloads or extended licenses so that figure is MUCH HIGHER, more than triple. But in this article we’re only focusing on subs.

I’ve done some calculations and subscription downloads make up nearly half of my total income at Shutterstock and the same holds true to other Agencies that offer such plans.

wine

A regular subscription-downloaded image

Some images should not be licensed under ‘subscriptions’

Now for the juicy bit where I give you some advice. In my book, I go into great lengths to outline which types of images should not be licensed at Microstock sites where customers may license them under subscription plans. Once the quality of your images improves, I would highly recommend that these ‘premium’ images should be licensed as Rights-Managed at Midstock agencies to earn higher commissions.

vineyard at sunset (barbaresco)

An example of an image that I license as RM exclusively at Robert Harding, a specialist travel agency. On a side note, this image came 3rd on a major photography prize on the theme of wine

These ‘premium’ images generally have a combination of the following three elements (just a sneak peak, sorry I can’t give everything away):

  • Unique lighting conditions
  • Rare, extraordinary and even dangerous shots
  • Considerable investment required to acquire the image(s), such as travel expenses, professional models, props and set

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Stock Photos: Royalty-Free or Rights-Managed and why you should know the difference!

Hey fellow photography grinders,

I must admit that when I first became a freelance stock contributor, I was clueless about how licensing of stock images works. Granted it’s not the most sexy of subjects, but spending some time understanding how stock photography licensing works, even at a basic level, will both allow you to earn more money and potentially keep you out of a lot of trouble.

High Court, London

The goal is to keep you out of here!

As the stock photography industry has evolved, different licensing models have emerged. Two main types of licenses are used in stock photography include:

  • Royalty Free (RF);
  • Rights Managed (RM).

Let’s deal with each one at a time.

Royalty-Free License

RF licensing is the ‘bread and butter’ of the Microstock industry and  most customers’ preferred option. Without getting too technical, a RF licensing agreement is when a relatively low one-time licensing fee or long-term subscription plan is paid to the Agency by the customer. In return, the customer has a wide range of uses for that image, perpetually (meaning that such uses don’t expire).

The basic RF usage would allow the customer to use the image on a website’s landing page and/or blog post and/or physical book (<500k ‘physical reproductions’), etc. with no need to renegotiate a new license each time. However, if the customer has greater marketing plans and wishes to use an image for merchandising for sale or 500k+ ‘physical reproductions’, for example, he/she would need to purchase an extended license at an additional premium. So far so good.

Rights-Managed License

RM licenses are the tailor-made option for the client and thus generally more expensive. If you want a tailor-made suit, you’re gonna have to pay more for it than one that’s off the shelf.

Under this licensing model, the image is licensed for a ‘single use’. Agencies offering this model use a complex formula to determine the price, depending on the customer’s intended use. For example:

  • Use on billboards is more expensive than in books;
  • Commercial use, such as advertising, is more expensive than editorial;
  • Size of the print run, e.g. the number of newspapers or brochures;
  • Position within the publication – use on the cover of a book would cost more than an image inside a magazine;
  • Size of the image, meaning that a double paged spread would cost more than a quarter page;
  • Duration of usage, e.g. a licence for a long-running exhibition would be more expensive;
  • Exclusivity option (not available under RF);
  • Territory – worldwide would cost more than locally or nationally.

This is the preferred option for a publisher, for example, that wishes to license an image exclusively (for a defined period) to use in a thriller book cover which will go out worldwide in millions of copy. No way in hell does the client want a similar image going viral or worse, being used on a cover of a competitors’ book.

man on bench

This would make for a nice book cover, in my opinion, and a client may wish to protect such image from competitors by purchasing a RM license under an exclusive-use basis

After the use, if the client wants to re-use the image for the same purpose or a different purpose, he/she would need to renegotiate such licence, thus earning the contributor another dose of royalties.

Selecting either RF or RM

Most Microstock site, by default, only allow contributors to license their images as RF. However, as your photographic skills progress and the quality of your images inevitable improves, you may consider licensing your more ‘premium’ images as RM at sites which allow you to  make that choice. These include most ‘Midstock’ sites. Just remember that if you do decide to license to multiple agencies, to maintain the license type consistent throughout to avoid any legal issues.

I’ve tried to be as brief and less technical as possible in the above. For much more information on RF/RM pros and cons, purchase a copy of the Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography, so purchase a copy today!

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Until next time!

Alex

Bored at the airport? Shoot Stock!

Hey fellow photography grinders,

As you’ve probably have gathered by now, I’m a travel photographer, which means that I spend a hell of a lot of time at airports. With all the security situation that’s going on it means that every year I tend to spend longer than I usually plan at airports. However, this opens up all sorts of opportunities to capture editorial stock photos to earn you some cash. The following don’t quite make my top 5 list of best-sellers but some of them earn me regular royalties.

I’ve always been fascinated with airports, especially the big hubs like London, Amsterdam, Dubai. It’s a weird & chaotic meeting place of cultures. As an introvert, I tend to observe how people from different cultures act and dress. What a stark difference the Scandinavians are to sub-Saharan African. Also Southern and Northern Europeans..Brazilians and Argentinians :). It’s a fascinating anthropological analysis. At the end of the day, everybody trying to get either home or escape from home. Others like me, have no home! 😀

Contrast between Rich and Poor in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Try to capture the contrasts between passengers

You’re there anyway, so might as well  make use of your time

Whenever I travel, I take my gear with me as my carry-on, minus the tripod which is frustratingly prohibited within the cabin. You really think I would check-in equipment worth thousands of dollars, come on?

A few years ago it occurred to me, that while I waited to catch a flight, I could be potentially earning from such stock (editorial) images, with little effort. I started to experiment and captured an array of different shots at different airports.

Which types of airport images are in demand?

Granted, not all airport images are licensed. From my experience (usually trial and error), I’ve figured out that the following categories of airport images tend to do well:

  • Travelers attentively checking the digital display board for their flights (the more stressed they look the better):
ALX_1722

Dubai, UAE

  • Travelers standing in immigration queue, or during security measures (discreetly!)

I must admit that this type of image is risky, with all the security situation that’s going on at the moment, which makes it that more appealing due to its rarity. My Nikon is bulky with its lens, so may get me in trouble, but a smaller mirroless camera might just do the trick. Here’s an example of heading up to the immigration queue:

immigration

Milan’s Malpensa – soon I’ll have to stand on the right as I hold a UK passport…

  • Interesting architecture: Pretty self explanatory, capture what’s unique about that airport and how it reflects the local culture (or lack thereof):
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Vancouver International, showcasing its local native population and nature

Madrid’s Bajaros airport, fascinating roof structure

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Paris Charles de Gaulle

  • Airplanes on the tarmac: These types of shots aren’t as popular but super easy to capture:

Busy Istanbul International Airport, the image on the left got me in trouble and I almost had to remain…Midnight Express…

  • Duty free shops: 
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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Dubai, UAE

  • General departure lounge: Wide shots like these have proven extremely popular
Heathrow terminal5

London’s Heathrow Terminal 5

tel aviv airport

Tel Aviv Airport, Israel

For more tips on shooting boring travel shots that are licensed regularly and much more, buy a copy of my Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography with the link below:

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Also available on kindle:

Safe & happy travels!

Alex

Why images with people tend to sell better!

Hey fellow photography grinders,

One person today asked me what would be my number 1 advice to make my images stand out and be licensed regularly.  I thought about it for a little while…then it occurred to me – so obvious! Outside of technicals (lighting, composition, focus, etc), without a doubt my primary advice would be to always look to include people within your frame

Why do images with people tend to do better?

Advertisers have long known that images with people are powerful tools for promoting a product and/or service. Potential customers may identify themselves or aspire towards the person in the image, so if there is a genuine human connection, even better for downloads. In fact, on average they are licensed considerable more often than other categories.

Capture

Compare between the depressingly empty photos on the left and the ones with a person on the right to highlight the fact that images with people are more ‘interesting’ and thus potentially more lucrative

Yeah, OK smart guy, but don’t you need a model release?

Yes, model releases are required for images which the person is ‘identifiable’. These are not easy to obtain when shooting strangers. I’ve never gone up to a stranger to ask them to sign a release, have you?

However, fortunately, there may be some occasions when you may shoot people and not require to submit a model release. When I say ‘may be’, it’s really up to the subjective judgement of the individual reviewer.  More often than not, the following occasions won’t require a model release:

  • Silhouettes:
silhoutte in beach

In this case, I increased the shadows, taken in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Couple kissing

  • Person(s) have their back to you:

This one may be trickier to get away with, and it’s been ‘hit and miss’ for me with some reviewers at some agencies. Still worth trying your luck.

Keep in mind that tattoos are considered trademarks, so if you do see one in a model, clone it out. Here’s a few examples that should be OK. 

man on bench

Idroscalo, Milan

Como2

Lake Como, Italy

  • Cut off their heads:

Sometimes you have to get medieval / ISIS-style and cut off your model’s head, not literally. These will most likely be OK but make sure that there’s no trademarks in the persons’ clothing or identifiable people/trademarks in the background. Or get really close in shoot images of their hands, as I did here from one of my images from my trip to Jaffa, Israel.

  • Tiny people in the frame

I took this shot yesterday of some people wake boarding and since the people were so far away the Shutterstock reviewer had no issue (and the person in the foreground had his back turned to me).

water park2

Looks fun, I ought to try it one day!

  • It’s an editorial:

As perhaps a last-case scenario, submit the image as an editorial.

One of the main advantages of an editorial image is that even if there are identifiable people and/or property in the frame, model or property releases are not required. For some commercial images with unreleased people/property, it’s perhaps an easy ‘get out of jail free card’ to simply submit your image for editorial purposes by filling out an accurate caption. However, keep in mind that an editorial should depict a specific subject, such as a topic of a news story or piece of commentary on something that is of human interest.

Therefore, rarely does an unreleased commercial photograph translate into a good editorial image.

old man

I tried to submit this image as an editorial but was rejected as it failed the ‘illustrative editorial test’ in that the image didn’t depict a subject of enough human interest, such as a latest piece of technology. Taken in Canelli, Italy

Final Thoughts

Try to take pics of your friends and family as much as possible and have them sign a model release! Given the technicals are excellent and you have a clear idea of the message you’re trying to portray, these will tend to do much better than images with nobody on them. However, as discussed above, it’s not a lost cause if you do shoot people.

More information on obtaining the most value out of your commercial and editorial images, purchase a copy of my book, “Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography”:

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Also available on kindle:

Until next time!

Alex

Top 5 Best Selling Stock Photos

Hey fellow photographer grinders,

I feel that it’s only fair that if I’m going to teach you how to make money with stock photos that I should disclose which are my top 5 selling images at Shutterstock in terms of downloads only not in terms of $. I do submit to other Microstock agencies but Shutterstock are by far my biggest moneymaker.

At the end I’ll give you the “secret” check-list of what makes an image premium, but keep the best bits in my book, the Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography. By the way, I use the term “selling” here loosely since it’s actually licensing.

Without further to do, here they are.

kiwi drink2

5th place with 105 downloads – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

What’s so special about it?

If you don’t recognise where it is, well it’s in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was taken a year before the Olympics and sold regularly to blogs/articles featuring stories about Olympics. Since, it does well as a travel photo as well as popular for blogs about cocktails.

What else is special? The background is superb with the light and the drink looks appetizing. It’s clean and screams out RIO! There’s also plenty of copy space, which is important for designers to place their Call to Action. Also, everybody loves a caipirinha on the beach!  I tried the shot with beer, on the opposite end of the beach (arpoador), but hasn’t been as successful

Downloads per Keyword: caipirinha (51.6%), rio (12.9%), cocktail (9.7%)

beer

15 downloads only, enough to pay for a few beers but not much more. In Brazil, they call it a ‘chopp’

IMG_3559

That’s my hand by the way, extra points for me managing to hold and take the shot at the same time! 🙂


Downtown Rotterdam during the day

4th place goes to Rotterdam, Netherlands’s Central Station (Editorial) with 146 downloads

What’s so special about it?

There’s loads of pics of this iconic building, inaugurated in 2013 of Rotterdam’s central rail station, but they’re usually taken at street level. Therefore, I haven’t seen any from this vantage point which happened to be where my office was – not bad eh. The image also has a beautiful sharpness and futuristic feel, combined with the copy space on the top left. I have other ones from this angle but this one sells the most.

Rotterdam has become a trendy place in Holland, rivaling Amsterdam so this image features heavily in travel blogs. Also, since Rotterdam is a hub for import/export business, with Europe’s largest port, this image features heavily in business-related websites and blogs.

Downloads per Keyword: rotterdam (66.7%), roof (3.3%), downtown (3.3%)


Airplane at Schiphol

Bronze medal goes to this iconic shot at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport with 160 downloads

What’s so special about it?

Well considering that I risked getting arrested since I was so close to the runway in a restricted part of the airport, I should be earning a lot more! With all the security paranoia (rightly or wrongly), I probably wouldn’t be able to get this shot at that airport in 2017. I live close to an airport in Milan but the huge fence doesn’t help to get clean shots.

Everything about it is special, the lighting, composition and unique moment. A hugely versatile commercial image about a popular subject (travel). I love taking airplane shots but none of my other airplane shots have done even close as well as this one, for obvious reasons.

Downloads per Keyword: airplane (88.6%), travel (4.3%), fuselage (2.9%)

Airplane taking off with sunset

Only 22 downloads, a disappointment in comparison – also taken at Amsterdam’s Schiphol on another occasion. Probably works better as a fine art print and gets lots of views in Fine Art America but not sales as of today


Jardim Botanico

Silver medal goes to this shot of the Botanical Gardens in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with 240 downloads

What’s so special about it?

Unsurprisingly, many wedding shots at taken underneath these arches. No such shots on the day I visited though, luckily. What is special about this image is the hypnotizing composition which just leads you in, with a beautiful soft tropical light coming through (it was winter there, hence the best light). It’s been used for all sorts of media from postcards to wedding blogs and of course blogs about travel to Rio/Brazil.

Downloads per Keyword: rio (26.5%), de (18.4%), janeiro (18.4%)


Woman reading book next to Houses of Parliament, London

Honourable mention goes to this shot of this pretty lady across from the Houses of Parliament, reading her book. Not a high-grossing image with “only” 50 downloads, it’s still one of my favourites for capturing that special moment! Crucially, it looks extremely authentic and the framing is excellent


brexit6

Disappointment of the year/decade goes to this image of an EU flag burning prior to the UK referendum on whether to leave the EU. By the way the Brexit vote was also a huge disappointment but that’s another matter. This image has only been sold 10 times. Hey at the time I thought it was a good idea and I like the post-processing…this industry can be tough to predict. Now onto the winner…


refugee3

Gold medal goes to this iconic shot of a little girl at Keleti Rail Station in Budapest at the height of the refugee crisis in September 2014. It has been downloaded a whopping 532 times (editorial)

What’s so special about it?

Duh. It’s just a crazy special moment in the midst of the chaos to see humanity stare at you like this. A defenseless young girl that has nothing to do with what’s going on in Syria is pleading for her life while her dad (I presume) looks on. She may not know what’s going on but the people around her look exhausted and make for a nice frame as she’s clearly the centre of attention.

I can’t ever see this image going out of style, especially as the refugee crisis sees no end in sight, unfortunately.

Downloads per Keyword: refugee (59.3%), syrian (7.9%), migrant (7.9%)


So what are the secret ingredients to a high-value stock photo? I write about this extensively in my book, so if you haven’t purchased a copy, please do. Meanwhile, i’ll give you a sneak peak.

Premium images generally have a combination of the following:

  • In colour
  • Have a clearly identifiable theme
  • Are authentic looking (in the case of commercial images)
  • Provoke a powerful emotional response
  • Capture an inspirational place
  • Have at least one person in the frame
  • Are trending or will be trending soon

If you want to see how I go into detail on each of these with clear examples, click below to purchase a copy (Also available on Kindle):

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Until next time and good luck with your shooting!

Alexandre Rotenberg

Author of the Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography

 

ITALIAN CYCLING ADVENTURES CONTINUED: PAVIA TO MANTOVA VIA THE RIVER PO

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Following on from my recent trip to Piedmont, the next route took me eastwards from Pavia to Mantova (170km) along the mainly-asphalted ciclovia del po, which hugs Italy’s longest river, the mighty Po. This is a popular cycling route with many albergabici, which are registered cycle-friendly hotels / agriculturismo B&Bs. For the more adventurous explorers, camp sites are available throughout the route.

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The route is a small part of a much larger Pan-European route #8 of the Eurovelo cycling network stretching from southern Spain to Greece. The Italian portion of the route is on course to being upgraded via the VENTO (Venice-Torino) project. More details are available on the VENTO website (also in English).

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Ciclovia del Po

Pavia

Pavia is a lovely university town on the banks of the Ticino river, easily reached from Milan via the Naviglio Pavense. This time I didn’t stay very long as I had much ground to cover in a short period.

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Students enjoy a break on the banks of the Ticino close to the Ponte Coperta

Via Francigena

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By accident, quite early on, I discovered another walking/cycling path which I naturally diverged onto, even if the route was slightly longer since the  journey is more important than the destination. The path is known as Via Francigena (meaning ‘Road from France’) and is an ancient pilgrim’s path from Canterbury to Rome. A brief history of the route is available  here.

The path is easy to follow, although I didn’t stay on it for very long as it soon headed due south towards Rome.

Unsurprisingly, many beautiful churches and shrines were built along the route.

Piacenza

The first major city I reached after Pavia was Piacenza in the Emilia-Romagna region, which is Italy’s main food-producing region, with its gastronomy capital of Bologna.

Piazza Cavalli is Piaceza’s main square. It is named (“Cavalli” means “horses”) for the two bronze equestrian monuments of Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma (r. 1586-), nephew and valiant general of Philip II of Spain) and his son Ranuccio I Farnese

Cremona

I crossed back into Lombardy and 30km of rice fields later, I reached the next major city of Cremona with its rich musical heritage.

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Torrone is typical of the city. It is made with toasted almonds, honey and other ingredients including egg whites.

Back on the Lombardy countryside

Despite the soaring heat, the next stretch (40km) of the route was fantastic, consisting of endless fields of wheat & corn.

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Seniors play scopa, a popular Italian card game

Sabbioneta

Sabbioneta is a  UNESCO World Heritage city and should be a definite stop on anybody’s itinerary, especially if you are like me a lover of the PC games Civilization & SimCity, since the city represents the implementation of the period’s theories about planning the ideal city. Typically, Mantua’s layout is irregular with regular parts showing different stages of its growth since the Roman period and includes many medieval edifices among them an 11th century rotunda and a Baroque theatre.

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Gallery of the Ancients

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Piazza Ducale, hub of public activity

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The Teatro all’antica (“Theatre in the style of the ancients”) was the first free-standing, purpose-built theatre in the modern world

Chiesa della Beata Vergine Incoronata (16th century) and inside the church, as beautiful as the Sistine Chapel without the crowds!

Mantova

After three days of hard cycling in the heat, I was happy to reach Mantova, the city where Romeo was abolished. A mandatory gelato cool down later, I explored this beautiful renaissance city which is also on the  UNESCO World Heritage list.

The Ducal Palace was built between the 14th and the 17th century mainly by the noble family of Gonzaga as their royal residence in the capital of their Duchy.

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A treat to top off a great adventure. Typical of Mantova, I savoured the Mostarda di Frutta, a delicious syrup made of made from small, sour & spicy green apples called mele Campanine.  The Guardian newspaper goes into more details on how it’s made, although it’s slightly different as it’s from Cremona. It’s often eaten with a type of bread made with pig fat and a popular sweet during Christmas time

Until next time!

To see more of my images and learn about how I fund my trips with Stock Photograpy, purchase my new Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography today!

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Dubai: Top 5 Places to Experience

Continuing with the photographic travel series, in May of 2017, I headed to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates for a week.

Unfortunately, I can’t duplicate the article on here just yet, but please find attached the link.

http://www.escapeartist.com/blog/top-5-places-experience-dubai/

Check it out, many pics and videos!

Alexandre Rotenberg

Travel Photographer & Author of the Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography

Purchase your copy today of the Guide to get your stock photography to the next level!

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PIEDMONT, ITALY: Gastronomy, History and Amazing Landscapes

I’ve always had a fascination with the north western Italian region of Piedmont, with its perfect combination of gastronomy, history and beautiful scenery. In fact, the name Piedmont is derived from Latin loosely translated to the foot of the mountains, as its bordered by the snow-covered Alps to the west towards France and to the north towards Switzerland.

During the late spring I was fortunate to cycle 140km over three days, starting from the rice-growing plains near the Po river passing through the historic cities of Alessandria, Acqui Terme, Canelli, Alba and ultimately Asti.  Some of the climbs were extremely challenging but I was rewarded with idyllic views of the UNESCO World Heritage Langhe-Roero & Monferrato wine regions.

On a separate occasion I explored the Piedmontese capital, Turin, with its wide pedestrianised, boutique cafes and rich gastronomy.

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My route across Piedmont

Got rice?

The trip started across vast fields of wheat and rice.

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Close to Spinetta Marengo, where in 1800 Napoleon won a famous battle against the Austrians

Arriving in Acqui Terme

Acqui Terme, a quaint spa town 35 km south west of Alessandria. The little pavilion in the town centre is known as La Bollente, for the spot where the waters bubble up at 75 °C.

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Local specialty. Ravioli stuffed with meat and covered in barolo sauce!

After a quick lunch, it was uphill towards the vineyards, in the baking sun.

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Tough climbs being rewarded by splendid views of the surrounding countryside

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Followed by a mesmerising sunset, near Barbaresco

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wine

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I stayed in a comfortable and affordable Agriturismo (b&b) near Acqui Terme. Private message me for details

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Next day, met a friendly local in Canelli, which is believed to be the birthplace of the Italian sparkling wine Asti. The village’s history of the wine is still evident today with the popular synonym of Muscat Canelli that is still used for the Moscato grape used to produce the wine. There is a beautiful villa overlooking at the top of the hill.

Quaint town of Alba, which is known mainly for two things…white truffles and nutella! I swear that the air in that town smells of hazelnuts!

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While we’re in the topic of dolce, some of these appear quite similar to French desserts which isn’t a coincidence considering that the region has historically had a strong French cultural influence

Turin

One another occasion I visited Turin, with its elegant squares and palaces, is the first capital of unified Italy when the kingdom of Italy was unified in 1861. The city, is often mistakenly overlooked for more popular destinations such as Rome, Florence and Venice which I rather enjoy since it retains its authentic character. In particular, the city offers a unique and relaxing vibe with its boutique cafes, world-class museums such as the Egyptian museum & Galleria Sabauda and diverse & distinct cuisine.

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From Cappuccino Hill, this panorama highlights Turin’s renaissance, baroque, rococo, neo-classical, and art nouveau architecture. One distinct feature is the Mole Antonelliana completed in 1889

Royal Palace of the House of Savoy – UNESCO World Heritage Site

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Arcaded shopping gallery, in fact Turin has 15km of arcades!

The Roman Palatine Towers. During the Roman period, Augusta Taurinorum as Turin was known, became an important strategic military centre, as well as a centre for commerce with the neighbouring regions. Here is a statue of Octavian (the future emperor Cesar Augustus)

Arrivederci and unti the next adventure!

Alexandre Rotenberg

Author of the Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography, purchase a copy below for only $7.50 and see more images from his adventures!

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Cycling Tourism in the Italian Region of Lombardy

As I mentioned in my Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography, my niche is travel photography with my bike. The following outlines some of cycling paths in and around Milan, Italy. To see more about my cycling adventures and get some tips on how to increase your photography revenue, buy my book!

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Cycling Adventures along some awesome canals

Despite being strategically located at the gateway to the Italian peninsula, Milan doesn’t have a direct river or sea connection, which was seen as fundamental for trade & commerce. To mitigate this problem, from the early Middle Ages, the economic and cultural history of Milan has been closely connected with the creation of the 162km Navigli canal network. These ancient artificial waterways are fed by the rivers Lambro, Adda and Ticino, the latter which flows to the mighty Po and eastwards to the Adriatic Sea. The environmental significance of the area is evident from the presence of three Natural Reserves (Parco Lombardo della Valle del Ticino; Parco Agricolo Sud Milano; Parco Adda Nord).

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The five main canals in the Lombardy region of Italy. Source: http://www.naviglilombardi.it/en/i-navigli/il-sistema-navigli/

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The cycling paths are mainly flat and ideal for all ages and skill levels. No need for a carbon racing bike! However, it is highly recommended to carry mosquito repellent during the hot months

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A gravel path near Pavia, along the Via Francigena (Pilgrim’s path from Canterbury, UK to Rome)

These waterways facilitated the economic and cultural expansion of Milan with the arrival at low cost of various materials including stone, lime, grain and lumber. In fact, marble for the Duomo was transported via the Naviglio Grande from quarries located on the cliffs near Lake Maggiore.

From the 1960s, the canals were no longer commercially viable and some of the infrastructure went into disarray. However, recently there has been a surge of investment including the development of a sophisticated and Dutch-style cycling paths, which are both safe and sign-posted throughout. In addition, the length of the paths (up to 75km) make them possible for a day trip. For a small three euro fee you may take your bike on the train back to Milan.

Our journey begins in the bohemian Navigli district in the South-West of Milan (M2: Porta Genova) where the Naviglio Pavense and Naviglio Grande meet on a basin. This charming district comes alive at night and is an excellent venue to sit on a terrace and enjoy a Milanese style aperitivo.

Navigli District of Milan

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Leisure boats in the Navigli District of Milan. Many of these houses used to belong to traders and be used as workers’ workshop

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Naviglio Grande (75km)

The Naviglio Grande is the oldest of the canals (built between 1177 and 1257) and streams South-westwards towards the Ticino River which flows from Lake Maggiore.

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One of the many beautiful villas along the Naviglio Grande 

Naviglio Grande, Italy

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The foothills of the Alps are visible in the background. This part of the path flows through Ticino National Park, a protected reserve area 

Vigevano, Italy

Vigevano, close to the western bank of the Ticino, has a beautiful renaissance style piazza worth a visit!  

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The Naviglio Grande leads to Lake Maggiore. One of the attractions is the Borromeo Islands and the town of Stresa

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Isola Bella in Stresa, one of the three Borromeo Islands

Naviglio Martesana (38km + 40km to Lecco)

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My favourite canal is the Naviglio Martesana, which flows from North-east Milan linking with the River Adda at Trezzo Sul Adda. For the more adventurous, the path continues due North towards Lecco via a gravel path hugging the river (40km).

The first part of the canal is busy and urban as it passes the beautiful city of Gorgonzola, famous for its cheese.

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On the right bank of the Naviglio Martesana, there is a massive water wheel (popularly called “rudun”) which is said to have been designed by Leonardo Da Vinci himself

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Vaprio d’Adda

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Trezzo D’Adda is a strategically important junction where the Visconti castle is located. More recently, a hydroelectric factory was built

One obligatory stop along the way is the UNESCO World Heritage Site village of Crespi d’Adda built between 1890 and 1910. This village is one of the most interesting and best preserved workers’ villages in Italy. Here you can see the main textile factory and workers’ houses.

Interesting, in 1482, Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to improve the design of this canal and there is a museum in his honour called the Ecomuseum “Adda di Leonardo. Closer to Lecco on at Imbersago you can take a ferry which was originally designed by the great man himself across the banks.

As you approach mountains and the final destination of Lecco, the scenery changes.

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Fishermen in Lake Garlate, close to Lecco 

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Final destination, overlooking Lake Lecco/Como

Naviglio Pavense (35km)

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The tree-lined Naviglio Pavense was built in the 14th century and flows from Milan to the historic university town of Pavia. I find this cycling path a bit boring but great if you want to work on your fitness as the lanes are quiet, flat and straight!

Along the way is the Certosa di Pavia monastery, 8km north of Pavia. Pavia itself is beautiful and full of restaurants offering delicious local risotto dishes.

Above on the left is the Ponte Coperto. The previous bridge, dating from 1354 (itself a replacement for a Roman construction), was heavily damaged by Allied action in 1945. A debate on whether to fix or replace the bridge ended when the bridge partially collapsed in 1947, requiring new construction, which began in 1949. The new bridge is based on the previous one, which had seven arches to the current bridge’s five.

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Pavia is the final destination, leading to the river Ticino. It’s a small yet vibrant university town.

Safe journeys!

Alexandre Rotenberg

Travel Photographer and Author of the Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography, click below to buy a copy which includes more images from his cycling travels!

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What the top Microstock Photographers are saying about the Brutally Honest Guide!

I’ve been busy lately sending copies of the Guide to experienced Microstock photographers with the aim of obtaining some reviews. Here’s some quotes from some Microstock superstars:

“A good read especially for the newbies! Great work on writing a tech subject to reach a general audience.

The last chapter [Opportunities Outside of Microstock] is a wake-up call for the dreamers but a known for the veterans. We accept this challenge and learn to up our game to keep our income level the same or end higher.”

– Tom Baker, the “stay at home shooter” since he shoots 90% of his images at home in his studio, a great way to keep costs down!

“You provided a diverse view of the entire stock photo industry at large; including the macro/premium agents. For newcomers, I believe that it will be very helpful for them to know that there is indeed another side to the sales processes. The book is assistive to any stock photographer looking to gain valuable information and additional thought processing and skills.”

Shannon Fagan, award winning assignment and stock photographer for clients such as Intel, BMW, Time, Fortune and New Yorker

“It’s full of great information, and no false-promises. Microstock is a tough business nowadays, but you’ve covered a lot of what newcomers will need to know, and a few harsh-realities experienced photographers would do well to listen to.”

– Robert Davies, programmer, stock photographer and developer of picNiche and picWorkflow 

“Spoiler alert: It is in fact very useful book for us who are thinking about stock photos, and photography in general.

The first part are the confirmation what a seasoned photographer already know but a newbie needs absolutely to read. The second part is more stock related, honest opinions about agencies, business and clients its all we need to know to have “success” in this kind of work.

I love the case study that the book presents, it is a truly and honestly example of what we can earn in this of business. I also like all the tips and tricks that come in every section of the book.

Thank you, Alexandre. It is in fact a great book.

– Filipe Nogueira, Portuguese Travel Photographer

I’ll keep publishing their reviews as I receive them. To keep things fair and brutally honest, I’ll also post neutral or negative reviews, if any.

Click below to purchase a copy below for $7.50!

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Visit Brera, Milan

By far my favourite neighbourhood in Milan is Brera. It’s the artistic / bohemian heart of the city, hosting some fantastic galleries, bars & restaurants. The district is a gem full of historic and cultural sights.

Where is Brera?

It’s in the north-eastern corner of the historic centre. Metro stations include Cairoli (M1), Moscova (M2), Lanza (M2) and Turari (M3), Montenapoleone (M3). Simply a 10-minute walk from the Duomo district, which is overpriced and too busy, in my opinion.

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Historic centre of Milan

 

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Source: https://nl.pinterest.com/pin/15551561189657242/

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Brera lies between the Duomo, where this image was taken, and the financial district

What to see in Brera?

Brera is simply a great place to get lost, holding a gelato. Stroll around the narrow streets on Via Brera and Via Fiori Oscuri. Notice the models go past and tarot readers on the sides.  Che sará sará…

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Perhaps you’re after a painting…

Pinacoteca

If you’re after art, head to the Pinacoteca di Brera which showcases works of art of some of the greatest artists during the Italian Renaissance. At the rear of the museum is a fascinating botanical garden with plans from around the world.

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Milanese Architecture

Some streets are more quiet than others. One in particular is a real gem and my favourite place to chill out and escape the hustle and bustle. It’s on Via San Marco and until the 1930s, a canal used to run on this street, as part of the Lombardy canal network (navigli). This canal was once connected with the Naviglio Martesana, which has a well-maintained cycling path I wrote an article on, engineered by the great Leonardo da Vinci.

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Market on Via San Marco

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Many of the buildings are art-noveau (Liberty) style from the early 20th century

10 Corso Como

If you’re artsy, and love books and fashion, head to 10 Corso Como on Corso Como, duh! Many photography exhibitions are held here, including the World Press Photo. There’s a bookstore, a clothing store, and a relaxing terrace where you can enjoy a cafe.

Eataly

A heaven for foodies, head to Eataly on Corso Como, if you want to buy a high quality variety of Italian produce and alcohol. There is are different restaurants offering a variety of pasta, fish, meat, pastry, wine, coffee and desserts. Bravo!

 

Aperitivo time!

As the sun sets, engage in the favourite past-time of Milanese, the aperitivo. It’s supposed to be a pre-dinner drink (think aperol spritz) with some finger food, as in the picture below. The food, as a buffet, usually comes free if you order one drink costing around 10 euros.

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Sit on one of the cafes on Corso Como and Corso Garibaldi and watch the world go by.

If you’re STILL hungry after the aperitivo, you can sit at the terrace at a nice restaurant (avoid the ones with the menus in English).

Brera bar

Perhaps try out the local cuisine, such as Risotto alla milanese and cotoletta alla milanese.

Quadrilatero d’Oro (Golden Quarter)

Although not part of Brera, the nearby shopping district is where you can find all the top brands (at top prices). Even if it’s beyond your price range, still great to window-shop and spot celebrities and fast cars. Think of it as Sloane Street & New Bond Street in London.

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Via Montenapoleone

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Armani Quarter

Visit Parco Sempione and Castello Sforzesco

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Nearby is the famous 15th century Castello Sforzesco

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Arco della Pace

 

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Watch out for pushy hawkers and people trying to “sell” you bracelets “for Africa”. Some claim it’s for free then try to extort money out of you with threats…

 

Buon viaggio!

Alexandre Rotenberg

Fine Art Photographer and author of the Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography

All I Need is Ecuador

Prior to visiting Ecuador during the 2016 Christmas break, I noticed that Ecuador Ministry of Tourism’s slogan makes a bold statement to the world in caps: “ALL YOU NEED IS ECUADOR”.  Me being quite the cynic, I preferred to keep my expectations low to avoid disappointment.

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However, right away the warmness of the people and the richness of the local culture positively surprised me. So much so that that I’m happy to now share some of my experiences and maybe it will even tempt some would-be expats to consider the country as a permanent residence.

Historic Quito

After a long flight combined with six hours of jet lag, before all I needed was Ecuador, first all I needed was a good sleep. Perhaps the altitude was getting to me, after all Quito is the world’s highest capital at 2,850 metres, high up in the Andes.

My friendly duly host offered me a local coca tea which turns out contains a mild stimulant that combats the effects of high-altitude without the euphoria and psychoactive effects of its derivative, cocaine.

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After some rest and with renewed strength, I was eager to explore Quito! We hopped on a yellow taxi and 20 minutes later (at a cost of merely US$2), we were at the historic centre of Quito, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the oldest, largest and best well-preserved historic centres in the Americas. I felt quite safe walking around in the centre, even with my giant DSLR, as there were many police present.

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The Old Town is lovely to wonder around with its numerous small cobbled streets, alternative bars and affordable places to eat. One such narrow street that stood out is called “La Ronda”, traditionally home to poets, musicians and politicians that left their mark on Ecuadorian history.

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The Spanish left their cultural mark, as inside many of the buildings in the Old Town you can see a courtyard and sometimes a garden with fountains as is commonplace in Andalucía, Spain.

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Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús

One jewel (literally) in the centre is the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús, a splendid baroque style Jesuit church dating from 1605.

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Inside is most impressive with its gold-leaf decoration, gilded plaster and wood carvings. The layout of the church is near-symmetrical with a ten side altars and a gold-plated altar plated. Pictures inside were prohibited but I still managed to sneak one in.

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 Basilico del Voto Nacional

Another impressive church in gothic style is the Basilico del Voto Nacional, also simply known as “the Basilica”. Similar in style to the Notre Dame in Paris, the church towers are the tallest in Ecuador providing a beautiful panoramic view of the city and surrounding volcanoes.

 quito cathedral at nigh

Church of San Francisco

The Historic Centre of Quito is dominated by the Church of San Francisco, the first church in the city dating from the 16th century.

Church in central quito

The square in front of the church is a popular gathering place. On this occasion a local charity was hosting a food drive. According to the United Nations Human Development Report, 40% of Ecuadorians live on less than $2 a day.

Charity work in Quito, Ecuador

Presidential Palace (Carondelet)

Located next to the Plaza de la Independencia is a historical palace where the President works. It’s possible to get tickets in advance to visit the building, including the meeting rooms, dining rooms and a large collection of gifts received by the Ecuadorian President from other Heads of State.

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The balcony where the President addresses the people of Ecuador

 

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A mural honouring the “glorious sacrifice of three thousand indigenous at the Amazon River” murdered by Spanish conquistadores in the 17th century

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Government cabinet meeting room

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Amazonian indigenous protesting against government actions to drill for oil in their land

El Panecillo

Close to the Old Town is a hill called El Panecillo (bread bun) and a 45-meter-tall stone monument of a Madonna with wings. From the hill you not only have an amazing view over Quito but also the surrounding volcanos. When the view is clear you can even see Cotopaxi from there, the second biggest active volcano in the world which I will get onto shortly. I’ve been warned that it’s dangerous to walk up the hill and it’s recommended to take a taxi. Did I tell you how cheap taxis are?

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angel of quito

Guayasamín Museum

Oswaldo Guayasamin is probably the most famous artist to come out of Ecuador and his mansion in the Bellavista district has been converted into a museum (admission US$8). I must say that I’m not a huge fan of art museums but this visit was one of the highlights of my trip to Quito. Whether you are into this type of art (modern, abstract) his conviction and motivation behind the subjects of his work were interesting, admirable and amazing. Excellent tours in English explain the motivation behind his works and his legacy.

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Guayasamin’s workshop

His works in the “Chapel of Man”, are powerful and deeply moving, depicting the pain of the poor and the downtrodden. Much of his works focus on the victims of oppression during the last half of the 20th century bloody military dictatorships in Latin America, notably in Chile and Bolivia. Again, no pictures were allowed but I still managed to sneak one in – I’m such a bad tourist!

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Cotopaxi National Park

Quito was amazing but after a few days I needed to get out of the busy city with its endless traffic, noise and pollution and into the wilderness. I decided to take an excursion some 50km (31 miles) south of Quito to the Cotopaxi Volcano (meaning Smooth Neck of the Moon), the world’s second highest active volcano at nearly 5,900 metres. I was fortunate that the volcano was not erupting as it did in April 2015 but remember to always check ahead of time!

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The volcano lies at the heart of a 33,393 hectares (82,516 acres) national park offering spending views of the páramo (Andean grassland) and its natural wildlife.

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A wild horse on the high plains. Interestingly, horses are not native to the Americas and arrived with the Spanish conquistadores in the 1500s. After hundreds of generations, the horses’ genetics have been forced to adapt to the demands of surviving at higher altitudes.

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Andean Llama

It’s possible to climb to the summit of Cotopaxi with an experienced guide, which takes approximately five hours. For those who are less adventurous, it’s possible to take a short hike up (300 metres) to the refuge from the highest point a vehicle can reach.

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At the refuge, lunch & drinks are served with spectacular views to the valley below and onto the surrounding volcanoes. I saw many people going downhill on bikes so there must be some companies offering this service – something for me to consider for next time!

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At this altitude 4,500m (14,763ft) the air is extremely thin so be wise if you have a pre-existing heart of breathing condition. The weather can also turn suddenly so dress appropriately.

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Laguna Quilotoa

Approximately 90 minutes from Cotopaxi lies the famous & stunning volcanic-crater lake.

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It’s possible to hike down to the lake through a series of zig-zag sandy paths (400 metres down that should take at most one hour). It’s also possible to hike around the lake (six hours). In fact, the whole region consists of a series of extensive hiking trails called the Quilotoa Loop.

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Once you reach the bottom you may rent a kayak for $2.50 and admire the stunning views. There are also camp site spaces available for free and some shops for basic needs

Be warned that the hike back is difficult for those who are not in good physical shape, particularly due to the altitude (4,000 metres). I saw many hikers who were completely out of breath like they just ran a marathon. If you do get too tired or just for the fun of it, you may rent a donkey for $10 to take you up to the village with the aid of local guides.

 

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Otovalo

My next trip in Ecuador took me two hours north of Quito to the market city of Otovalo. In fact, the town’s traditional market (on Saturdays) dates back to pre-Incan times. The rule of thumb seemed to be that, by haggling, you could expect an approximately 40% discount off the asking price for just about any item, including ponchos!

 

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Leaving Ecuador

For such a relatively small country the size of Italy, I was positively surprised by Ecuador’s vast natural and cultural wealth. I wish had longer to explore the coastal region, including the Galapagos islands and its Amazonian region!

What left me the greatest impression wasn’t the wonderful food or magnificent landscapes but the kindness and warmness of its people. I don’t usually like to repeat places but for Ecuador I will make an easy exception. All I need is Ecuador!

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Ecuador, you took my breath away!

Alexandre Rotenberg is a travel photographer and writer based in Italy. His website is www.arotenberg.photoshelter.com

 

 

A Week in Israel: Top 5 Places to Experience

Although Israel is a small country, it’s extremely rich in culture and history. One common concern I often hear about those wanting to visit Israel is in regards to safety. Did I feel unsafe at any moment? Nope. However, of course, there still are isolated incidents, and it’s wise to stay updated before and during your trips of areas to avoid. In any case, if you watch the news regularly you would think that nowhere is safe now…

One inadvertent “benefit” of a visiting a supposedly “higher-risk” location is that for the quantity of touristic jewels, there are relatively few tourists, which is great. The same can’t be said about London, Paris or Rome. Most visitors, it seems, were pilgrims visiting sites referenced in the Bible, Torah or Qur’an.

Supposing that you’re planning a one-week stay, I would recommend experiencing the following places as must see. It’s a pity that there’s so much more, but this means I’ll have to go back soon.

In order to get the most out of the experience, I would highly recommend hiring an experienced tour guide. I was fortunate to be in great hands with the extremely knowledgeable Jayme Fucs Bar, who provides personalised tourism packages.

  1. Jerusalem Old City

Jerusalem will probably be your starting point and deserves special attention as it holds significance for three religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. As such, the Old City is roughly divided into different Quarters:

  • Jewish Quarter
  • Christian Quarter
  • Muslim Quarter
  • Armenian Quarter
Map of Old Jerusalem

Source: Wikivoyage

Venturing from one Quarter into another is a unique experience as the scenery, languages and culture changes instantly.

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 A metaphor for a divided city, taken at the Mount of Olives

Jewish Quarter

The most direct way into the Jewish Quarter is via the Zion Gate, also known as the “Wounded Gate” as it carries the “wounds” on its walls of the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. At the entrance of the gate was a mobile bread cart.

This gate leads through small streets to the Western Wall, which is an ancient limestone wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. The wall is the only remaining segment as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple by Herold the Great, which was destroyed in AD 70 by the Romans. The wall, which is divided between men and women, is full of small pieces of paper with prayers. What would you wish for?

Next, also within the Jewish Quarter, on Mount Zion, is another Jewish holy site: King David’s Tomb. King David is a celebrated Old Testament warrior king of Israel (1010 – 970 BC). Within the same site is the location of Jesus’s “last supper”.

king david's tomb

The Jewish Quarter is quieter than the other quarters and is packed with a maze of mysterious small streets.

Jewish quarter

Be sure to visit the Mahane Yehuda Market, often referred to as “the Shurk”, a traditional Jewish market. It’s a great place to try traditional Middle Eastern dishes, such as falafel, hummus and fresh exotic fruits, such as the purple dragon fruit (pictured). Again, security is tight as can be seen with the army soldier with the automatic weapon.

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Christian Quarter

The Christian Quarter is directly assessable from Jaffa Gate on the Western side of the Old City. It’s a lively Quarter, full of outdoor markets, restaurants and historic churches.

Deep within this quarter, at the last stop of the Via Dolorosa, is the must-see Church of the Sepulchre, the site where it’s believed Jesus was crucified and subsequently buried and then resurrected. Be aware that both men and women have a dress code so check in advance for this site and other religious sites.

The Sepulchre church includes the Stone of Anointing, where Jesus’s body is believed to have been anointed before burial and the highlight, the Altar of the Crucifixion. Large queues appear to be common to kneel down and pray at the knees of the depiction of Jesus.

jesus crucification site

Deep underground within the Sepulchre church lies the tomb of Jesus’s mother, Mary.

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Armenian Quarter

The Armenian Quarter is the smallest of the four but equally hosts some interesting sites, such as the Tower of David Museum with a panoramic view of the Old City.

It’s worth visiting the 12th century St. James Cathedral, which is dedicated to two Christian saints: James, son of Zebedee and James the brother of Jesus. Unfortunately, the church was closed when I visited so check ahead of time for opening times.

 shrine3

Muslim Quarter

The Muslim Quarter is the largest and by far the liveliest of the quarters. Head to the bazaar if you’re looking for good (Turkish) coffee, fresh fruits and vegetables, spices, tourist souvenirs, local sweets and a lively atmosphere!

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jerusalem market

israeli spices

Dome of the Rock

At the middle of the Old City is the iconic and controversial: Dome of the Rock, which is one of Islam’s holiest sites. This is a shrine built on a sacred foundation stone, which is believed, by Muslims, to be the location where the Prophet Muhammed ascended into Heaven on his winged horse on the “Night Journey”. Complicating matters further, the site is also holy to Jews as it’s where the First and Second Holy Temples stood and the site on which Abraham was prepared to sacrifice Isaac, as a test of his loyalty to God (also known as the Binding of Isaac).

This most contentious piece of land on Earth is of limited access to both tourists and non-Muslims, who are only allowed to enter through the Moroccan Gate, Gate next to the Western Wall.

The iconic Islamic golden dome is topped by a full moon decoration that evokes the familiar crescent moon symbol of Islam, according to its original architects.

temple mount (vintage)

Within the Temple Mount is the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the most important mosque in Jerusalem and the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. Non-Muslims are not allowed within the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

jerusalem old town overview

  1. Sea of Galilee

Heading out of Jerusalem, hugging the Palestinian Territories and towards the border of Lebanon is the iconic Sea of Galilee. According to the gospels, much of Jesus’s life centred around this region, where he gave more than half of his parables and performed most of his miracles.

One river that flows within the Sea of Galilee is the Jordan River, which is a place of many important biblical events. The site is called, Yardenit, and is identified as the traditional site of Jesus’s baptism, which now hosts a museum. I was fortunate to visit the site during a baptism.

For most Christians, the link with the river would be the scene of Jesus being baptised by John the Baptist, according to Matthew 3:13:

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.” This quote is splashed alongside the walls of the site in multiple languages.

jordan river

bible verse

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  1. Tel Aviv & Jaffa

After a few days of religious-heavy tourism, I was ready to take a break and headed towards more hip & secular Tel Aviv, on the Mediterranean coast.

My first port of call was Jaffa, on the southern tip of Tel Aviv. Jaffa is an ancient seaport, with a rich history (even Napoleon conquered the city in the early 19th century), worlds away from the modern metropolis of Tel Aviv.

jaffa at night2

carpet sellers

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Tel Aviv on the other hand, is a bustling young hip city, with a thriving start-up economy.

Tel Aviv seaside

It’s also known as the “White City”, due to its collection of 4,000 buildings built in an unique form of the 1930s Bauhaus form.

tel aviv at night

  1. Caesarea

Staying on the Mediterranean coast, just south of Haifa, is Caesarea, which was the capital of the Roman province of Judaea in 6 BC. A few of the highlights include the amphitheatre and horseracing arena, which are relatively well preserved.

  1. Haifa

Close by is the major (modern) port of Haifa. One of the must-see sites is the Terraces of the Baha’i Faith, also known as the Hanging Gardens of Haifa. This beautiful symmetrical garden overlooks Haifa and the sea.

ali baba haifa

Another highlight are the simple houses in the Haifa German colony, established in 1868.

haifa8

Other notable places to visit if you have more time:

  • The Museum of Israel (Jerusalem)
  • The Dead Sea
  • Holocaust Memorial (Jerusalem)
  • Acre
  • Nazareth
  • Golan Heights
  • Eilat
  • Safed
  • Occupied Territories (if possible)

Shalom, salām and peace – until next time!

Alexandre Rotenberg

Author of the Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography

New guide for beginners – “Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography”

Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography cover

Fellow contributors,

As some of you may already be aware, since November last year, I’ve been painstakingly drafting a comprehensive guide to Microstock.

It’s taken a hell of a lot of work and I’ve settled just over 200 pages, with just as many example images, to reflect the complexity of the business.

Here’s the table of contents:

Chapter 1 – Microstock Photography 101
Chapter 2 – What’s in my Camera Bag?
Chapter 3 – Achieving Technical Excellence
Chapter 4 – The Legal Side of Stock Photography
Chapter 5 – Licensing Editorial & Commercial Images
Chapter 6 – Overview on Agencies to License Images 
Chapter 7 – How Much Can You Expect to Earn (The Extra Mile Isn’t Crowded)?
Chapter 8 – Creating Interesting Images
Chapter 9 – Finding your Niche
Chapter 10 – Keywording
Chapter 11 – Workflow Optimisation
Chapter 12 – Opportunities Outside of Microstock
Interview with Joas Souza, London-based Architectural photographer

But it’s not about quantity, it’s about QUALITY.

I’m really sticking my neck out on this one and telling it how it is (the good, the bad and the ugly). I also go on to write about the in and outs of Midstock agencies, so you don’t make the same mistake I did by submitting your premium images to Microstock as RF!

It’s on sale for $7.50. Click below to place your order!

Buy Now Button

If you would like to keep up to date with all my blog posts (including cycling adventures) and happenings, drop your contact details below:

Happy shooting!

Alexandre Rotenberg

Another Sneak peek

It’s getting exciting as the moment of truth is close. Just a little bit more design work and DONE.

Meanwhile, here’s another sneak peek from two chapters…the first screenshot from the Chapter “How much can you expect to make” and the second image from the chapter on technicals:

 

If this is the type of content you’re looking for to increase your revenue, I’ll soon have the ebooks available for pre-order (at a discount), so stay tuned!

Alphabetical list of Microstock agencies

The following is an alphabetical list of the major Microstock Agencies updated in early 2017.

You’ll be able to see much more in my guide, to be published soon!

Agency Image Exclusivity Option? Commission on exclusive content Commission on non-exclusive content Barriers to entry for new contributors
123RF No N/A Depending on the specific type of subscription, details here None
500px Yes 60% 30% None
Bigstockphoto No N/A $0.50 per credit or 30% per Partner Program None
Canstockphoto No N/A 50% None
Canva No N/A 35% None
Clipdealer No N/A 46% of the net sale None
Cliparto No N/A 40-50% None
Colourbox No N/A 20% None
Crestock No N/A 20%, 25% after the first 250 downloads, up to 40% at 10,000 None
Cutcaster Yes 55% 40% None
Dreamstime Yes 60% + $0.20 bonus for each approved submission 20-45% depending on your level None
Depositphotos Yes From 50% to 60% per file sold or from $0.31 per sale via subscription 34-42% None
Fantero No N/A 55% None
Featurepics No N/A 50% None
Foap No N/A 50% None
Fotolia /Adobe Stock Yes From 35% to 63% 33% None
GL Stock Images No N/A 52% None
Mostphotos No N/A 50% None
Istockphoto Yes 22% – 45% 15% Application quiz and then submit a sample of three images
Panther Media No N/A 30-50% None
Pond5 No N/A 50% None
Photodune / Envato Yes 50% – 70% 36% None
Photocase No N/A 40% – 60%, depending on your current share level None
Photospin No N/A 40% None
Pixta Yes 30% to 53% 22-42% None
Pixoto No N/A 30% None
Scandinavian Stock Photo No N/A 50% None
Shutterstock No N/A Depending on the specific type of subscription, details here 1 in 10 images must be accepted
Signelements No N/A 30% None
Solidstock No N/A 50% Invite only
Stockfresh No N/A 50% to 62.5% None
Twenty20 No N/A 20% None
Yayimages No N/A 50% None

Interview with Joas Souza, London-based Architectural Photographer

As a chapter in The Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography, which is to be published soon, I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Joas Souza, a fellow Brazilian architectural photographer. I have learned a lot from his style and business acumen and I trust that you’ll find his advice useful. Check out some of his amazing work on his website.


 

Hi Joas, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. I’m keen to find out more about how you got into architectural & interior photography and how your experience may inspire Microstock photographers who want to pursue this niche.

Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself, and how you got into architectural and interior photography?

I would say that architectural photography has been with me during my entire life. My mom is an architect and my dad is a photographer, so since birth, projects and photographs have surrounded me. My father bought my first camera when I was only 5 years and introduced me to the photographic world.  Luckily, I fell in love with it and embraced the duty, inheriting his profession. During most of my teenage years, I assisted him on assignments all over Brazil, photographing important industries and massive architectural projects, from the ground and from the air. All this time spent together gave the opportunity to learn everything I needed to become a professional photographer.

What kit do you use and why?

My kit consists of a massive selection of both Canon lenses and Sony bodies. I found out that this combination brings up the ultimate quality in terms of image and mobility. The Sony sensor has an amazing dynamic range and the Canon lenses has a stunning optics quality. Plus the fact that only Canon has a 17mm Tilt Shit lens, which for me, is absolutely indispensable, specially to photograph buildings in Europe, where the streets are mostly too narrow to capture the whole building using a “normal” tilt shift lens.

Which is your favourite type of architecture to photograph?

I’m drawn to modern architecture, with its sharp edges and beautiful geometric shapes, which create really interesting patterns and shadows every hour and season of the year.

Outside of my commercial work, I enjoy challenging myself photographing both old and unusual architectural styles, including the brutalist movement, which is commonplace in London.

Which kinds of clients do you work with?

My clients are mainly architects, interior designers, property investors/developers and luxury estate agencies.

What has been your general experience with submitting your images to Stock Agencies?

I haven’t submitted images to many stock agencies, but the few ones I had, are generating quite good money. I wish I had more time to dedicate myself more to submitting to stock photography, after all, this is the best retirement fund that a photographer can have since his/her own image library should keep selling and bringing revenue, even after he/she may be incapable to photograph.

If you could give three tips to someone who wants to make the transition into full-time architectural and interior photography from Stock, what would they be?

  1. When diving into the architectural world, you have to understand what you are photographing in order to bring the best.  Thinking that a project is simply beautiful doesn’t mean you’ll photograph it in the best way. You have to understand what architecture is all about, such as the reasons why certain structures are constructed in certain ways, otherwise you might get nice general shots, but not what the architect or other clients are really looking forward to seeing.
  2. Learn how to operate a tilt-shift lens, it will be your ultimate tool to photograph architecture in a professional way.
  3. Learn how to observe the sunlight movements, including: what sort of light each season delivers, and the way in which the sunlight changes depending on the time of the day as it illuminates a structure. All these considerations creates great effects, such as adding volume to enhance its 3D visual feeling and I recommend you to learn how to explore this side of architectural photography.

In your opinion, how important is it for a professional photographer to establish a niche?

I believe that, unless you’re a total genius, you have to establish a niche for yourself, which would be a field to be really specialised. If you shoot everything, you’ll never become proficient at your craft. In turn, you will struggle to run a proper marketing strategy to target the right sort of clients.

Do you sell prints and how is that experience for you?

I have couple of companies where I sell my prints, including: ArtVogue and Magnolia Box. The experience with both has been great. I plan to dedicate more of my time to feeding those two agencies with more images as well as stock image banks. At the end of the day, more images equals more chance to license images to clients, which means extra cash can be reinvested into my photography business.

Do you shoot commercially outside of architecture and interiors?

Yes, my second niche after architecture is aerial photography, a field that brings me a huge amount of joy, since being up in the sky gives you a very unique view of the world, and as a photographer, there is nothing that can beat such experience.

Thank you very much, Joas!


 

Here’s a sample of his work:

Battersea_03 CL1023_1500.jpg

Palestra Building_DSC9656.jpg

125P4520.jpg

_NSF6079.jpg

IMG_0980_1500.jpg

Check out more of his amazing work on his website.

 

Introduction – A Taster of what’s in the book

Businesses desperately need high quality & cost-effective images to persuade consumers to purchase their products and/or services. These businesses, generally speaking, cannot simply ‘lift’ a digital photograph to use for commercial purposes due to legal restrictions. This is where Agencies step in, efficiently connecting photographers to end-users via online access to cheap, high quality, Royalty Free images. The photographers are generally crowd-sourced amateur hobbyist looking to make a side income. This is the birth of Microstock!

This is good news for those who are interested in earning some extra cash for images that would otherwise be gathering digital dust. The barriers for amateur photographers to earn money with this ‘stock’ photography have come crashing down over the past 15 years. This is since high-quality DSLR ‘point and shoots’ and more recently, mobile phones with higher quality cameras, have become available for an increasingly large audience.

The best thing about Microstock is that everyone with a decent enough camera (or even smartphone) gets a chance, but whether you make money once your images are uploaded is another matter altogether. There is growing frustration amongst veteran Microstock photographers, who hold quality portfolios. Many question whether it is worth continuing to submit to these Agencies as revenues stagnate at best, and in most cases, drop.   It is easy to see how competition has made it more difficult for the photographer.  Shutterstock, a top-tier Microstock site, boasts a 100 million-image archive, with 800,000 new images added each week!

As drones become more accessible to the masses and mobile cameras become more powerful, competition should get even tougher.  In fact, most Agencies are already accepting mobile phone content, presenting a completely new world of opportunities.

So what hope is there for newcomers?

My intention is not to  come  across  as  pessimistic,  but  to  be  brutally  realistic:  this is a tough  business and not a get rich quick scheme.  I feel it is better to know the challenges ahead of time and to realise how much perseverance and talent you will need to make it. What you learn from this guide will help to maximise your chances. With the right work ethic, a commercial eye, an ability to recognise an in-demand photographic niche and, of course, talent, there is still plenty of room for you! As the old saying goes, the ‘cream rises to the top’.

All images in this guide are my own, unless otherwise stated. I hold nothing back and you will see the good, the bad and the ugly. In return, I would appreciate your honest feedback.  My   contact details   are    available     on   my     site  at  www.arotenberg.photoshelter.com,  where  you  can  also see  my latest portfolio and blog.

Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock to be published soon!

 

 

Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography - Alexandre Rotenberg

Here’s the table of contents:

Chapter 1 – Microstock 101 

Chapter 2 – What is In My Camera Bag?

Chapter 3 – Achieving Technical Excellence 

Chapter 4 – The Legal Side of Photography

Chapter 5 – Editorial v Commercial

Chapter 6 – Overview on Agencies to license your images

Chapter 7 – How much can you expect to earn (The Extra Mile Isn’t Crowded)?

Chapter 8 – Creating Interesting Content 

Chapter 9 – Finding your Niche

Chapter 10 – Keywording 

Chapter 11 – Optimising your workflow

Chapter 12 – Getting the hell out of Microstock!