Hear It!

Say hello to not one, but two great photographers! Simon Dayton and Vis Wong of Imagehit, seasoned professionals in the stock photography industry, share with us some refreshing insights gained from their many years of field experience. Read on to learn how you too can achieve success in this competitive and ever-evolving business.

Photographer: imagehitevo / Imagehit
Country of Origin: Hong Kong

1. Production Equipment: Please list the production equipment that you use on a regular basis (eg. Cameras, lenses, flash & lighting, photo editing software).
Simon: We mainly go for Canons due to the versatility of their lenses. We use a 1DS Mark III, and a couple of Canon EOS 5D Mark IIs as backups as well as a Canon EOS 7D for video. As for lenses, we have a 300mm F/2.8 L lens, 100mm F/2.8 macro lens, a 17-40mm F/4 wide angle lens, a 24-105mm F/4 standard zoom lens, a 70-200mm F/2.8 telezoom lens as well as a 50mm F/1.4 standard lens. We have a Sigma ring flash and a couple of Canon Speedlite 580EX IIs. In the studio, we have Elinchrome and Bowens lights, while for outdoor or overseas shoots we use Elinchrom portables. We also use Manfrotto tripods and monopods.

Vis: We use the 5D MkII for video, although we've just invested into a 7D which can shoot HD up to 60 fps. For image editing software, we use Adobe Production Premium and Nik Color Efex. Our post production team uses Mac Pros with 32Gb RAM and Quadro FX580 cards, using the latest Wacom Intuos 4 tablets.

2. What do you think of photography these days?
Simon: The old school art of film photography is sadly dying out. Now, popular photography is so widespread that you can say a new art form has been created, even if a lot of it is pretty bad. In terms of microstock, there are still many people who don't fully understand the mechanics of photography. This can only be addressed by them studying the industry and seeing what is truly required.

Vis: It's becoming part of our lifestyle. With today's cellphones, it's so easy to just point and shoot. Then everyone uploads their images without any care for quality across the Web, which leads to a lot of rubbish images being posted online. It wasn't too long ago when photographers only chose their best images for display. I think that people shouldn't upload poor pics, to avoid information overload.

3. What did you want to be when you were younger?
Simon: An astronaut! (laughs). I've had an artistic side since I was a kid. I've always known that I wanted to be in the arts, and I consider this job to be my dream job.

4. Tell us about the time when you first got started in photography.
Simon: For me, it all started with taking pictures with a pinhole camera and developing them in my primary school's darkroom. Then at 11years old, I got my first Pentax camera and it just went on from there!

5. In your opinion, what does it take to become successful in this industry?
Simon: Photographers should be more aware of which images are sellable within the market. Many people take photos that look great, but have no commercial value. It's important to know which genres the agencies are snapping up in order to get a better idea of this. Besides that, obviously one also needs to hold decent photography skills.

Vis: I feel that one must adhere to three criteria. The first is to have a keen sense of observation and insight. The second is to understand the market demands, while the third is to have a strong aesthetic sensibility. Good stock photos come from combining good technique with market understanding.

6. What was your biggest challenge coming into this industry?
Simon: I was in the fashion industry before coming into stock, so I had to pick up the stock requirements from scratch. I realised early on that I couldn't bring the fashion mindset into creating stock, having seen many a great fashion photographer fail miserably in this industry. Understanding the business is a crucial element of success.

Vis: For me, it was making my images stand out amidst that of all the other photographers out there. I had to develop my own unique style to do so.

7. What are the best perks as a Photographer?
Simon: Meeting and working with very creative and beautiful people. It feels great to work with individuals who influence you creatively. Also traveling to fantastic locations where you would generally never get the chance to go is a big bonus.

Vis: Getting to work with really great people, especially ladies! Plus, you get a lot of freedom and the hours are flexible.

8. How do you plan for your shooting sessions?
Simon: Time is money is this industry. We have a limited budget and yet both quantity and quality are critical. We have to max out productions in order to recover costs over a short period of time otherwise we just end up spending without making any gains, therefore it's vital we know what to shoot before we even get to a location. Planning can take anywhere between 3 weeks to 3 months depending on the scale of the production.

Vis: We usually start by researching newspapers and magazines to learn the latest trends. We then look for suitable models, get them to sign the necessary releases, and carry out a location recce. Then comes the props and wardrobe, putting it all together and shooting. The final stage is the editing of images.

9. How would you describe your work to first time viewers?
Vis: Our images are skewed towards the commercial segment in order to suit the market's needs. They are well organised, and feature great locations such as luxury yachts.

Simon: They also are the result of much research on our part.

10. Do you shoot to what your heart tells you or do you go through a complex check list in your mind when you produce your work? Describe the feeling/check list.
Simon: I try not to use any references as they tend to suffocate creativity. I'm pretty outgoing with an open mind to do whatever I can, as long as the results are commercially viable. 80% of my work is commercial, while the rest is conceptual. It's important for me to maintain this balance as you also need certain outstanding images to showcase your portfolio and attract customers.

Vis: It's a little bit of both. I'd usually pretty much already know what I'm going for before shooting, but I'd also be ready to make any necessary changes. Sometimes you've just got to follow your instincts. If you simply follow through everything based on a plan, you risk producing work that's too similar to others'.

11. From your experience, what subjects gives you the greatest satisfaction? Any examples?
Simon: For me it's about fresh experiences. I like dynamic shots, front lit models with a low sun behind and anything dramatic. I also love capturing movement, such as a model diving into a pool as I'm renowned for getting models into water, even if they're wearing business attire. It takes a skilled crew to achieve these shots successfully. Concepts are fun too but take a lot of prep time!

Vis: I love conceptual shots, such as single colour shots, as I get to play with creativity. I'd enjoy the entire shooting process, even if it takes hours.

12. From your experience, what subjects are the hardest to work with? Any examples?
Simon: Prima donna models who just prefer to be pampered than get the job done. I find it a pleasure to work with cooperative and real professional models. So much more can be achieved when a synergy is attained.

Vis: Kids, especially those aged 3 to 6 years old, as they tend to be really emotional. Animals too due to our inability to communicate with them. And senior citizens, because they can't hear you very well!

13. What is your philosophy when it comes to your work?
Simon: It's important to enjoy what you're doing and not treat it as just a job. That way you can be more openly creative and productive. If things become too much of a routine, boredom sets in real fast.

Vis: Photography, just like in life, is about embracing a moment that will never come by again. Miss it and you'll live to regret forever. I also look at it as a battlefield, and I go all out to win.

14. Describe who/what inspires you, tell us why?
Simon: The portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz for her realism and ability of capturing emotions. Ansel Adams for his beautiful and unique landscapes and the photographers at Timecapture who also capture amazing moments. I also look to Tony Stone's stunning and unique concepts in stock which I'm sure have inspired many people today.

15. What do you do when those creative juices just seems to evade you. How do you "get creative"?
Vis: I always get my inspiration from life's experiences and from reading. If you don't have any ideas at all, it probably means that you've locked yourself inside a room for too long! Just go out there and meet people, then you'll get some ideas and see things differently.

16. Tell us about a time when inspiration just hits you, and you felt the insatiable urge to create. What did you do with that energy?
Simon: Quite a few times on shoots, I'd see something that looked really good, and I'd grab everyone and share my idea with them. It's great to have a crew that knows what I'm going for by intuition, as they can take my vision and help put it into images without me having to explain too much.

17. What have you discovered about yourself through photography?
Simon: Photography has given me the opportunity to express myself creatively in the instant of a moment. If I don't capture that moment as it happens, I'll never have that opportunity again.

Vis: Just as with illustration, photography is about expressing a moment in life. Also, photography is like a war. One needs to be serious and really take responsibility for one's self.

18. Do you have any advice for those who are just getting in to stock photography?
Simon: You need to have a better understanding of market trends. Don't come into it thinking you're going to make lots of money right away. I've come across photographers who complain that their images don't sell well, but that's because their images are not commercially viable. It takes a good crew, money, time and lots of effort to be successful in this game. Professional photography is not easy, or cheap.

Vis: Keywording and meta data are extremely important. There's no point in taking great images but not having accurate and relevant keywords.

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