Adobe Creative Cloud

Story Behind The Image: When Two Become One In Stock Photography

When stock photographers Lasse Behnke and Daniel Bunn came to the conclusion that two heads really were better than one, they teamed up to create images that took inspiration as well as technical skills and shared equipment to create stunning images that the ultimate creative gurus took notice of. Their image ‘Headphones‘ has been featured on Adobe’s Creative Cloud website, one of the ultimate signifiers that their collaboration has classified them as an artistic success.

We got a chance to speak with them about the process behind the image itself, as well as their unique working relationship:

“As a stock photographer you work in the dark. There is no client, no art director and no assignment – and to be honest, yes, that is the best part. It’s just you. No endless email-correspondence, meetings, no requirements, no deadline or last minute adjustments and in a way you get to do whatever you want to do. But as anything in this world, nothing is quite as good as it may sound.

Both of us do stock photography for a living and when shooting a theme/model our first priority is always the profitability of the images we are producing. And the truth is, there are in fact clients, agencies and assignments that you work for, you just never get to know them. It’s an anonymous, take it or leave it business. And since you never get to be in contact with your customers, there is no feedback either. You never know who bought your image, or what it is being used for. You may also never know why a customer bought an image, and worse, you never know why he didn’t buy it.
So how do we cope with this problem? The answer is easy, us stock photographers, and we work for imaginary clients. We have to picture who the potential clients are and what he might need. Then we go out and produce images that we hope will sell. The better you are at simulating your potential clients beforehand, the more successful you will be as a stock photographer. But in the end of the day, no matter how good or experienced you are, every image is a shot in the dark.

On to the creative process now: When it comes to our creative process things get a bit confusing. As the reader, you may have already wondered, why there are two photographers for one photo. Here is why: we don’t work like most photographers do. We have known each other for quite some time now and used to go out and take pictures together. When Daniel decided to give stock photography a try in early 2014, we in a sense became competitors. However, there are thousands of stock photographers worldwide, we are competing in a marked with 80 million+ photos to choose from, it’s the textbook example of a globalized market. So why not collaborate? There is obviously already more than enough competition around and we figured it would make perfect sense to work together by sharing photo and studio equipment as well as digital material such as photos or textures for compositions. We even went one step further and carry out most of our photoshoots together, meaning we come up with ideas for shooting, preparing concepts, planning poses, rustling up props and looking for models.

What’s probably even more odd is, that we shoot as a unit; we pass the camera around, alter the lighting and give instructions to the model, both at the same time and as equals. There is no individual task assignment. To us this style of working has worked out so far and comes with many benefits: better light, better poses, more attention to detail, a wider variety of angles, to come to the point – more ideas.

On taking the shot: The “imaginary client” for this shot was a kind of music service provider or someone from the music background, like a magazine or website. Our model is an actual DJ (DJ La-Chris) who is well known in the local club scene. We always try to use models that are as authentic as possible and the reason for this is easy – sometimes the difference between a sale and no sale can be something that seems completely trivial to the amateur eye. For example: no golf instructor will buy a photo of a golfer with an incorrect technique and the same applies for poses, outfits and equipment in other industries.

Our concept for this particular image was to create a strong, modern portrait, which illustrates the emotional range of music. To achieve this, we decided to use two speedlights without any modifiers as strip lights; one was gelled in a cold tone (blue), and the other in a warm tone (orange). The lights were positioned behind the model, so only a little bit of light would hit the side of the models face and his headphones, giving it a nice contour and separating him from the background. As a fill light we used a studio strobe with a beauty dish, coming from above the head at a slight angle to illuminate the face for a dramatic look. We used a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and the settings were: F/9, 1/160 sec at ISO 100.

On post processing: Once we are done in the studio we work for ourselves, meaning we split the results from our shooting. There is no real system, we just go with it and so far it works out.

In this particular case it was Lasse, who took the image into post-process with Photoshop. His main objective was to cover up some minor flaws and really bring out texture and color in the image. First step were basic exposure adjustments in Camera Raw, then beauty retouch and some Dodge & Burn, finished off with a bluish night look, which was achieved with a mix of different adjustment layers.

On discovering our image: If you want to know where your images end up, you are highly dependent on luck. Every now and then you, or someone you know, come across one of your pictures on the Internet, in a magazine or on a billboard and you get to see how they are applied in “the real world”. And it’s fun. It’s exciting to see where your images end up and how they have been used. Even after years you can be surprised how other people see and interpret your work. Sometimes you where spot on with your imaginary client and sometime completely off. As you can imagine sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but exciting none the less. But every now and then, you are in for a real treat. In our case it was the model himself, who discovered the image on the Adobe Creative Cloud  home page. He immediately wrote us a message saying “is that really my face on Adobe?”.  And if finding your image on the world’s leading provider for creative software website wasn’t enough, we were also absolutely stoked by the work of Caroline Blanchet, who used our image as a foundation for her artwork.”

About them:

Lasse Behnke (lassedesignen), 29, Stock-Photographer since 2010. From Bremen, Germany 

Daniel Bunn (BilderBunn), 30, Stock-Photographer since 2014. From Bremen, Germany

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  • By Michael W. Perry - 9:07 AM on September 22, 2015  

    Let me extend my thanks to stock photographers. They’re the unsung heroes of the creative arts. In my case, I need to create attractive book covers but lack the skills, time or money to take the required pictures myself. Instead, I spend literally hours searching for and pouring over the pictures in stock photo services, looking for just the right picture.

    Sometimes that search takes an odd twist. I’m working on a book for physicians, nurses, and students on handling embarrassment issues in hospitals. The topic is so touchy that there’s almost no research on it and my guide for hospitalized teen girls, Hospital Gowns and Other Embarrassments, seems to be the only book about the topic on Amazon.

    Given how embarrassed people in health care seem to be about discussing embarrassment, I’ve wrestled with what the book’s cover should look like. A searched for pictures with doctors, nurses and patients and drew a blank. All seemed posed and none dealt with the book’s central theme, embarrassment.

    Then I had a brainstorm. Perhaps the best cover picture for a serious topic is a lighthearted one. I searched for “kids playing doctor” and found some marvelous pictures, particularly one called “Kids-brother and sister playing doctor.” I couldn’t figure out how to link to its webpage in Adobe Stock Photos, but here’s the picture itself.

    That’s a near perfect picture. Now ponder for a moment how many pictures I would have had to take to do this on my own. I’d have to visit a hospital, get permission to take pictures, persuade staff to pose, get them sign a release—and then draw a blank when none seemed right. I’d then have to start all over again after that brainstorm, looking for kids, finding outfits for them to wear, taking dozens of photos to get one that is just right.

    That’s why I am a great fan of stock photographers and stock photo services. These services have millions of professional done photographs. Search terms allow me to narrow that down to a few hundred. Then out of that few hundred I can usually find one that’s just perfect. It’s still a lot of work to get right, but far less work that it would be if I had to do everything myself.

    So my thanks all stock photographers. Our world would be a far less interesting place without the amazing photographs you take.