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Interview Series: Sean Locke

Today we have the honor to welcome Sean Locke, a very experienced and successful photographer who has been a beacon of inspiration for many stock photographers.

Learn more about his workflow and what his best selling image on Stocksy is. Enjoy!

Tell us, where do you live and where are you from? Is that where you produce your photography?

I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, went to college at Syracuse University in New York, worked in Orlando, Florida for 12 years and am currently based in St. Louis, Missouri.

When did you discover your interest in photography?

My father frequently traveled internationally when I was a child, and he always had his camera with him. We watched quite a few slide shows back then, and I guess I caught the bug. I was given a Nikon2000 when I was a teen, and I shot some “art” for fun, and images for the school yearbook, and we even learned to develop black and white in class.

I was more of a “video” guy though. I made music videos with my friends, short stop motion bits, took our school’s video production classes and I even shot some sports for the soccer team.

How did you find microstock and why did you get involved? Has it changed your life?

I discovered stock in 2004 when I needed to buy some photos for a personal project. I had some 3d images I had created for the project, and thought I could make my money back by becoming a contributor myself.

I caught the bug, and in December, I decided it would be quicker, easier, and more profitable to use a camera to create my content. I saw the opportunity, and took it, and my life has certainly changed. I quit my full time job in October of 2007 and went all in on stock photography.

Thank you for image! What inspired you to take this picture?

This image was part of a shoot in a boutique clothing shop. I was going for “business owner” from the attitude of the model, but something that could also be used to represent a customer.

What does this image’s revenue chart tell you?

Well, sales on Stocksy are still low at this point, but this is my biggest seller, currently. Seeing it licensed pretty consistently, and more often, shows we have an expanding customer base.

Did you expect such a revenue chart? Are you happy with it?

Seeing consistent sales is always a good thing.

The microstock market is huge. How do you analyse the market? Is it an important part of your workflow?

Not really. I tend to not look at other portfolios, but try to think up interesting themes that I haven’t covered or that I need to revisit, due to clothing changes or changes to my creation style. While I have a general sense of what is successful in my portfolio, I try not to micromanage through numbers analyzation.

Do you believe in “quantity” or “quality”? What is most important for you and why?

Both. If I’m going to invest in a location, models and props, you can bet I’m going to maximize my investment by securing a large number of usable images. However, I don’t submit machine-gun series, with a head slightly turning or slight composition changes. I try to make images within a series unique, even if there is a large selection to choose from in the end.

What does your typical production process look like?

I do everything. Occasionally, I sit down, and brainstorm into a notebook. Another day, I’ll come back, pick out one or two ideas, and see if I can flesh them out into a shoot that will give me enough concepts for two hours of shooting. Then I line up the location and models and get ready to rock. It can take anywhere from a week to several months from idea to execution.

Would you recommend photographers to take risks and invest in employees or assistants, or outsource, to help them in their production process?

Personally, I enjoy the level of complexity and risk I am currently experiencing as a solo artist. And the environment on Stocksy, where I am concentrating my efforts, makes that possible.

Where do you think the stock photography business is going? How do you see the next years?

I think buyers are looking for a new experience. I see rave reviews all over for the experience they are getting on Stocksy, from the image selection, to the website interface, to the customer support.

I think contributors are done with the same-old, same old experience of false promises, lowered royalties and poor customer support and are trying out new things, such as Symbiostock, to be able to handle their own sales, and reap the rewards.

What is your advice to remain a successful stock photographer in upcoming years?

Lol, wish I knew that myself. Find something that works, and keep pushing at it.

Tell us, when you are not doing photography, how do you relax and enjoy your free time?

I like to cook, both inside and out on the grill. For all the cooking magazines I read, you’d think I’d have more food photos in my portfolio. I also try to keep up with my kids on the xBox. And when we have time that isn’t taken up by school and extra-curricular activities, we like to travel around the USA.

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