Interview with Marc Romanelli.
John interviews leading photographers about the future of stock photography and other important issues.
Interview with Marc Romanelli
Marc Romanelli has been successfully shooting stock for over twenty years. He is based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico where he lives with his wife and baby daughter.
Marc, I know you have been shooting stock for a long time…and that you don’t currently shoot assignments. Can you fill us in on your early career; how you came to be a stock shooter?
I started out painting, drawing and sculpting as a kid and only picked up a camera at age 17. I began by shooting found objects...crushed cans, tree bark, rusted metal...the world was revealed to me through the lens of a 55mm micro Nikkor . Seeing that close up for me was a revelation, to be followed by wide-angle lenses that distorted reality in other wonderful ways.
I began shopping my portfolio around Manhattan and eventually pestered Life Magazine into giving me a few assignments. Got a cover of Modern Photography at 23, and then signed to Image Bank at 24. Early on realized that the freedom afforded with stock was the way for me to go. I traveled extensively on very low budgets, maintained very low overhead while at home, and plowed profits back into travel shooting.
About 20 years ago made a choice to concentrate on shooting people, getting comfortable with directing people in recreational sports shoots having (then) recently moved to the mountain west...Santa Fe.This eventually morphed into shooting lifestyle and whatever else struck my fancy including some fine art stuff.
Do you license your own stock, license only through agencies, or do both? What agencies handle your work?
I don’t license my own, rather I am represented by Getty for stills and motion, Corbis (motion), Creatas (motion), and Workbookstock, Hola, Blend, Bluemoon, and Alamy for stills.
RF, RM or Micro?
I shoot RM, and RF. I have not shot Micro and probably will not in the future.
You shoot motion as well as stills.
How long have you been shooting Motion and how did you happen to move into that arena?
I first began shooting motion back in 1997. I call it the “second wave” of Image Bank guys who got their feet wet shooting motion. I had an intuition that I'd take to it naturally. I've owned an Arri 16s, an Arri BL2 3mm, and currently a Panasonic HVX200 camcorder (for sale cheap).
Do you find you need a different skill set for shooting motion?
Different skill set...absolutely with motion you must create an arc in time, maybe 20-30 seconds and tell a story. You are responsible for moving the camera and or subjects in time and space and not relying on a decisive motion that crystallizes in a single frame.
How does motion fit into your future plans?
Motion is an integral part of my imaging business, and an increasingly important part. The Tech rush is forcing still shooters to acknowledge that hybrid cameras capable of shooting stills and 1080p motion files are here to stay. The world sees motion as the most natural, emotional and effective way to communicate.
How do you approach a stock shoot? I.e. ideas, plans, casting etc.
Concentrating on what you do best seems to work (in an increasingly volatile environment). A key that I try to tap into is the question "does it feel real, authentic"? Easier said than done.
Particularly now, as the visual paradigm experiences a sea change from excess, expansion, and self-centered focus...to reality, community, shared responsibility, and contraction. I work very intuitively...I cast friends and people I meet that I have a sense about; I rarely work with models.
I also don't shoot in a studio. My preference is to find real locations. This can present challenges but I prefer the authentic feel of a working location.
Are you involved with the fine art world?
I have dabbled in the fine art world, having had a one-man show of my black and white personal work shown in Santa Fe and a group show as well.
What do you find most satisfying about your work?
I enjoy photographing my 3-year-old daughter. She keeps my photo chops razor sharp, and my photo intuition on high alert...try capturing mercury visually!
Anything else you want to share?
I find that my decision to do a stock shoot is determined by matching talent to location, while keeping an eye on how I might differentiate my images from what's out there.
I tend towards what I call” situational" shoots, lifestyle shoots that are reality based, and subscribe to the notion that end users of my images are essentially looking for uplifting, inspirational, positive imagery. Actually, sometimes the most positive thing that comes out of a shoot is the relationship; interaction, and communication with the talent whether they are friends or acquaintances. It is as if there exists a kind of "charged, positive residue" that has been created by the action of the photo happening. Usually if this is experienced I know I've done a good job capturing something.
The industry is in flux. What do you see as currently the biggest challenges for you as a stock shooter? How are you dealing with those challenges?
Our business is evolving at warp speed and the engine is the digital revolution, the massive democratization also called "crowd sourcing", availability of exceptional and now affordable digital cameras, and new portals and selling platforms creating a surplus, a glut of images chasing ever fewer buyers. This is particularly true now considering our fragile economy.
What to do? I choose to shoot what I know, shoot what feels right, diversify by shooting motion, as well as stills, finding new agencies that want to build their collections quickly as Workbook did, loading them up with images but not forgetting the "girl that brought you to the dance" in the first place...that would be your bread and butter agency. In my case that agency is Getty.
Marc, thank you for sharing that with us!