I’m Toni, the photographer, I’m 45 years old and since almost 5 years ago, I work exclusively selling pictures on the microstock agencies around the internet.
At the end of 2012, after being completely broke as many other because of the economic crisis, I was unemployed and I still had a flat thanks to my mother that was paying for the mortgage. One day, my ex-girlfriend told me that she had just discovered the perfect job for me (thank you Miriam) and that is how I started in the microstock business.
At that time, I didn’t know a thing about advertising, I had a slight knowledge about photography after trying to photograph birds from my living room window during the previous 6 months and I also didn’t know anything about microstock or anything related.
I opened my profile in different microstock agencies, uploaded 15 photos and one month later, I had made 3$. It was enough to realize that this business had a great potential and I decided to work full-time on this.
During the first 3 years and a half, I worked for 16 hours a day, from Monday to Sunday, focusing on learning everything I could to make this business grow, working all by myself.
There was no free time, relationships or anything that could distract my attention from this project, even though it was taking more time than I expected before.
The beginnings were really hard (I don’t think anybody deserves that), I was mainly learning but not selling.
After the first year, I still wasn’t able to make a living out of it, but after the second year, everything changed, after doing exactly what I had learned, the growth of the business was completely exponential.
After the first 3 years and a half, I was still working alone and I was selling around 1600 photos every day with only 4500 photos in my portfolio.
Nowadays, I’m one of the top selling microstock photographers.
Even though most of the time in this business is dedicated to writing sessions, retouching/editing photos and keywording them for the agencies, there is also a great part that depends on other people. The models.
Thanks to a model agency that helped me unconditionally from the beginning, my friends, and other people, I took test shots with many of them, without knowing what to do or how, and I was trying to learn how to discover and take advantage of the potential of the models.
Many of them, even though they had an excellent attitude, were not giving us sales.
It wasn’t long after that I met Laura. After a test shoot, we started to work frequently, creating a really strong bond, both personal and professional.
Her sales were really high from the beginning and now, after 4 years, her photos sell more than 1000 times every day.
Mario arrived around a year later and him, as Laura, is still working with us.
Today, I consider them as my own family and I love them as if they were my kids.
We really care for each other, both personally and professionally. From all the models that I’ve worked with, they stand out because they have been able to achieve great sales and work seriously and professionally being (most importantly) great people too.
I always say that there is no space in my business for bad people. I need to work with exceptional people, both personally and professionally and they have over achieved it.
I have known just a few exceptional people in my whole life and they are one of the best.
I understand that it can seem exaggerated from the outside, in the end, this text is basically trying to sell you, but believe it or not, we have decided to tell just real stories without sweetening anything.
For example, at the beginning, Laura was working for the first year without being paid a dime because I was making no money out of it and I couldn’t pay her. Her fidelity and compromise, as Mario’s too, surprise me even nowadays.
Both of them believed in this business from the beginning and because of the emotional bond that exists between us, they work exclusively with me.
Of course, that initial effort was rewarded as soon as it was possible,
Around a year ago, Elena became part of the team and she is following the steps of Mario and Laura being extremely professional and a really great person.
She is selling more and more pictures every day and she is completely integrated into our team, or as I prefer to say, our family.
It doesn’t matter if it’s cold or hot, if they have to stand up in an impossible way or if we have been shooting for 12 hours, they are always ready with a smile and that’s not something that you can pay for.
In all of this time, we have made many sacrifices and they’ve never failed me. Not even once.
I can’t ask for anything else. And from here, I also want to thank each one of the models that have worked with us because all of them have contributed (in different ways). A part of them contributing with their sales and others because they helped me learn and, obviously and especially, to my kids because without you all of this won’t have any sense.
My mother has always been related to the fashion world, so for me this was just another “small” work to learn things about this industry, but once you’re doing it, you realize that it’s not just like the others.
Besides, the fact of being able to combine my college studies with this job, since usually every session is adjusted to my availability, was really important for me to continue doing it. At the end, you really understand that all these things are what really matter.
It’s normal that, in any kind of job, you try to achieve your goals without thinking about your employees, but here we’ve been fighting all together to create a great work environment that it’s fun and fulfilling for all of us.
In the end, that’s what really matters. It’s not that I don’t consider it my job, because after all that time doing this, you can really understand how important it is, but if I compare it with my friends work experiences, it doesn’t look similar at all.
After it’s been a while since preparing a new session, I’m always happy to know when is going to take place the next one. I’m usually really excited when we have a new session, even though sometimes the sessions are really long. Even if the sessions are fun, we work really hard in each one of them and it’s really fulfilling when we receive a message from Toni after the first review, telling that the results of the session were great. It makes you feel proud of the work you’ve done.
The great effort and dedication that Toni puts in everything he does, especially in this project, has made me learn many things about life and not only professionally. Things that made me a better person and knowledge about how to confront challenges. His dedication motivates you and gives you drive constantly.
That attitude makes you feel that you are part of a bigger project and feeds the illusion to continue with it.
Even though that there can be difficult days, all of us try to find the best part in every situation adapting to them and all of those challenges solved help us being motivated for the new ones.
As time goes by, we’ve become real professionals in what we do, without losing the great environment that has existed since the beginning. In my case, starting to work with Toni from the beginning has helped me learn everything step by step and I’ve never felt overwhelmed by the situation.
Going to work for me (if you think about the real meaning of the word) it’s quite different than it is for most of the people, for me it’s meeting with people that I have a great relationship with and having a great time, working on a project that grows thanks to the effort of each one of us, always directed and guided by Toni.
Don’t get me wrong. All this great environment at work doesn’t mean we are not serious about it, what it really does, is not making us feel as laborers but part of a team that’s serious and compromised.
4 years have passed since I started working with Toni and I have to say that being a model never was one of my dreams. To be honest I never really liked it, but I needed money so I decided to try.
Before that, I worked with a couple of photographers and I made some money, but I never really felt proud, and I didn’t even have fun doing it. That’s because I never felt comfortable in front of a camera and least with so much people staring at me.
Therefore I never harnessed the opportunity I had.
One day I met Toni and he interviewed me. He presented himself and explained what he needed. A few days later he called me back and told me to try doing a photo shoot with him.
There I discovered that his way of working was very different from any job I had ever done. He always made his best to make you feel comfortable with chatters, jokes and interesting discussions, it seemed like he didn’t care about wasting time to make you feel comfortable.
In fact, I think that we were talking for more than an hour before getting to work. After that we started the photo shoot and I felt less pressured and not so uncomfortable in front of the camera.
After a week he called again and told me that if I wanted I could start working for him. At the beginning I accepted for money, but in the end I stayed for how the results of own job made me feel and the experience that it has brought me.
This is not a normal job. If I had to compare it to something else, it would be like going fishing with my friends with the intention of bringing home the greater quantity of fish possible.
Two fishing rods, a couple of beers and the best company you can have.
Sure, sometimes it can be hard, the sea can be rough, maybe you go home with no fish, but when you spend the good and bad moments together with your friends, you always have the desire and the strengh of moving forward.
I don’t feel like the most important part of this project, because I am not, and I am sure that this boat would have sailed and fished perfectly without me, also being a model is not my dream, and probably in other circumstances I would not like doing what I do.
But when I do this I do not feel like I am working, I feel on a boat having fun with my friends and at the same time trying to accomplish something greater together.
Sometimes it’s not important if you like the job or not, if the ones you work with are the appropriate people for you. The secret is working with the people that make you forget that you are working and make you feel on that boat fishing with your friends. If that happens, I thing that every job can turn in a job you like.
There are many factors that can make a photo shoot really difficult, specially in exteriors, the weather can complicate it a lot, sometimes it even obligates us to abort and makes us change our own plans.
Imagine that you have prepared a session sheet in summer, for example, sunbathing or sitting in a bar drinking something refreshing, and when you have everything prepared and completely set to make the first picture of the day, suddenly, without any kind of notice a huge black cloud appears just above you and makes it so difficult that all you had prepared no longer can be used.
Sometimes it looks like an animated cartoon but many sessions are like this and it happened so many times that we sometimes debate on who between us is the most ill-fated of the group.
But this never took us down, so when the weather is bad we are ready to make sad pictures, if the trees do not have leaves we will glue them on and if the water is too cold we imagine ourselves in a very hot place….
This fact is further accentuated in trips. Traveling wile working for me is an adventure, it makes you see things in a way that in a normal trip you will never see.
Clearly a trip costs a lot of money, so you have to use the time you have the best way possible.
This means that you wake up before sunrise to star working and you finish after sunset, (with various pauses during the day, otherwise it would be suicide).
This makes you feel the full life of the place you are in, from the first bird tweeting till the last car going home from work.
And even though you are there to work, and the job has to be done the best way possible, for me it`s an experience that it’s worth living.
I started working with Toni by the end of 2016, even though we tried to start 2 years before it was not possible.
At the beginning, I was on test for a few days and I had so much fun that I even forgot that I was working.
From the very first minute, he has always trusted in me and has helped me to improve, being able to progress together.
I’ve always been very surprised at his effort from the beginning. I’ve been able to see how he always solves the problems that appeared every day and then after, see that we achieved great sales numbers. I’ve discovered how, with great effort and consistency, everything is possible.
That passion that he puts in his work is something that really gets you and makes you want to continue and try to achieve news goals.
When we need to change completely our plans for a session, for example because if the weather (that happens many many times) or whatever other reason, Toni always says that we can’t just give up on the session, and that we must try something different.
Being able to see what he has been able to build in 5 years, after many trial-error attempts, analyzing and learning from them, it’s a great opportunity that you don’t usually have in other jobs and it’s really important for me, making me realize that even though you make mistakes, you can never give up.
Besides that, we have a really positive work environment, we have a great relationship with each other and that helps work even better.
Even though I’m one of the last ones that joined the team I feel like at home and that’s something that doesn’t happen in any job. I really love it.
Those little things are what makes me want to continue growing together and makes me excited about it.