Spotlight on Adobe Stock Contributor Mark Schwettmann
You know the type of photos you see in high-end travel magazines and brochures that make you crave a vacation to some remote land or glamorous city? Well Adobe Stock contributor Mark Schwettmann’s images do exactly that. We got a chance to speak with him about his love for travel and photography and how the two combined make for a beautiful, exotic and inspiring portfolio.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey to becoming an Adobe Stock contributor. I’m not a full-time photographer—I’m actually an architect by education and practice. I live and work in San Francisco, designing high-rises and civic buildings on the West Coast and in China. My father introduced me to photography on a trip to Japan we took together more than fifteen years ago; it’s been a passion ever since. He and I and my brother, and then later my wife and I, have traveled most of the world seeing amazing things and taking photographs of them. Like many serious amateur photographers in the Internet era, I started sharing photos online and then discovered that there was at least a little market for royalty-free shots of landscapes and architecture.
How do you decide what you will be shooting for stock? What is the process you go through when researching potential subjects?
I never set out to shoot something only for stock. I go places and shoot things because I want to see them and share the way I see them with people, but if I am somewhere, I think about the angles and light and entourage that would work or wouldn’t work for stock. I do spend some time before a trip looking at inspiring images from photographers and contributors whose work I admire—but I also make sure not to research it too carefully. It’s good to understand the basics of a place, how to get around, the orientation of the sun and the weather, but you also need to bring a fresh eye.
What’s your go-to equipment?
I’ve used most of the more serious Nikon DSLRs since the D100, but I’m shooting with the D810 today. I’ve experimented with a lot of other (mirrorless) gear, but the quality isn’t there, the focus performance isn’t there, and the shooting envelope is too limited. I use the same camera to shoot parties, children, wildlife, pets, architecture, landscapes, sports, cityscapes, you name it. The D810 can do just about anything. I love fast primes and wide angles, but over the last few years my most used lens for architecture has been the 24MM PC-E tilt-shift, and lately I’ve also been doing a lot with the 70-200 f/4, which is a great compromise between size and quality.
How much post-processing do you tend to do on each image?
Generally not much other than cropping, rotating if needed, and some adjustment for color and contrast. Occasionally I’ll combine frames to change the overall crop or composite moving elements. I try and tweak color only to reflect my memory of the scene, which is often different than the first take on the display thanks to the amazing dynamic range of the human eye.
How has your photography developed since you started contributing? What lessons have you learned?
Stock really teaches you to first nail the basics. Focus, composition, color. Then you start getting images accepted and realize that those things alone don’t sell. I’ve learned to take my time and try to think about things from someone else’s point of view. What story can I tell with an image that might be thought provoking or change their idea about a place?
Have you a favorite image in your portfolio? Can you share the story behind it?
The shots of Rio from a helicopter were a blast. No doors, moving quickly to try and catch decent light and angles from a fast moving platform. I didn’t even know about stock at the time, so I was just trying to document an amazing experience to share with friends and family. It was a really last minute thing: The trip was planned on a whim while on a layover waiting for a delayed flight to DC with my wife and another couple. When we were there, we thought, hey, let’s take a helicopter tour. I had my camera gear, so off we went, doors off.
Do you focus purely on photography as a professional pursuit or do you enjoy photography as a hobby in addition? If so, how does it differ?
It’s really the other way around—a hobby first and a professional pursuit second. My real job is actually the inverse, a profession that I also can’t avoid sometimes taking on as a hobby.
From your portfolio it appears you do a lot of traveling. What’s been your favorite place to shoot and what location is on your photographic wish list?
I love traveling, literally every part of it, from the airport to the plane to the new places, unfamiliar roads, new subways and train lines, and just wandering cities far from home. I definitely don’t have a favorite place, although living in San Francisco I can’t avoid chasing after fog and sun over the hills and bridges. I’ve spent a lot of time in Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand but only a little in South America and Africa. I think Africa is next on the list.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start contributing stock images?
This is corny, but don’t just think about what might sell—think about what moves you. If you don’t love shooting it, it isn’t worth the time.
A big thank you to Mark for taking the time to speak with us. Discover more of his amazing images in his Adobe Stock portfolio.