Interview with Devon Steele | GBPW Episode 71

I always think there are aspects of the photographer’s personality coming through in their content, even if it’s commercial content or stock content.

Devon Steele

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In this episode, I talk to Devon Steele, 500px’s art director. Devon has a lot of experience in the stock photography industry and knows what kind of photographs sell.

Devon and I talk about:

  • Stock photography and how it has changed significantly in the past few years
  • Tips for photographers who want to sell their work on stock photography websites
  • Why you shouldn’t ignore property or model releases

& much more!

I learned a lot about stock photography thanks to Devon. I hope that his tips gave you a clear idea about this industry. If you’ve ever been interested in taking some stock photos of your own, you should definitely give it a shot.

Here is a preview of our conversation with Devon Steele.

smartphone photograph of plants taken by Devon Steele

Q: What inspires you the most when you look at other people’s photographs and when you interview them?

Devon Steele: What inspires me the most when I see other people’s photos is trying to figure out exactly what I’m thinking inspired them in that photo. So often, I’m picking up on references to classical art or media.

I know a lot of people are inspired by film or television. Sometimes, I’ll even ask them in the interview, “Hey, I found this photo. Is it inspired by this classical painting or this style of art?” and sometimes it’s not. What I actually found, even when it’s not inspired, is how art over time can always be connecting and drawing on the same themes.

Or maybe it’s just, you know, the way you feel looking at the art, the things that you’re connecting with, you’re kind of filling in these blanks. And whether it’s art from 100 years ago, or photos that someone submitted to 500px today, there’s commonalities between them, and you kind of pick up on themes that just feel very human, regardless of time or contacts.

smartphone photo of a beach taken by Devon Steele

Q: Where do you figure out what the current stock photography trends are?

Devon Steele: It’s a lot of what you’re seeing when you’re consuming media. So if you’re going on Instagram, if you’re analyzing the general consensus of the content that you’re seeing, and how are photos being shot now, etc.

In the past, with stock photography, you didn’t want to be shooting portraits out, you didn’t want to be shooting vertical, because horizontal provides you a better crop that you can like. But now I think that portraits like that are very valuable because of social media, so many ads are on your phone, and that’s the layout format that’s going to be so it’s essential to shoot both.

In terms of keeping up with trends, a great resource that we provide is the 500px blog. Every week, there’s a new kind of article that comes out that focuses on a trend or advice on licensing. And then also, a great resource that I also look into a lot is Getty Images. It has a creative insights blog. And they tend to focus on things like sustainability, wellness, diversity, and realness.

urban photograph taken using a smartphone camera by Devon Steele

Q: I’m never really sure with model releases. I mean, if it’s a face, obviously you need a model release. What if it’s a part of the face? What if it’s just a hand?

Devon Steele: If it was part of the face, I think you would need it because you would be able to identify it. For a photo of a hand, you don’t need it.

But these things change. Because I know that 10 years ago, there were a lot of instances where you would not have needed a property release or model release. And I think they were changed in response to like, if the company gets sued, and then after that, they say, “Well, now we require absolutely everything that’s a completed release.” They want to avoid that.

Check out Devon’s work:
500px profile

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