When you look for images on Adobe Stock, you’ll probably notice two things. Firstly, the AI-powered search functionality allows you to find what you’re looking for very quickly. And secondly, that the images themselves are of premium quality. And that’s no accident.
Adobe Stock (opens in new tab) prides itself on gathering the best photography, illustration, graphics, templates and video from leading creators around the world, and that includes Maskot (opens in new tab). Sweden's leading producer of royalty-free images, the studio works tirelessly to produce the kind of high-quality images that designers around the world are looking for.
In a recent Adobe webinar (opens in new tab) the co-founders of Maskot, Mattias Drotte and Per Levander, took us behind the scenes and revealed how they consistenly produce superlative images on the subjects of lifestyle and business. Here, we’ve summarised five principles they apply to their process, and you can see some of the stunning results yourselves.
01. Research your subject(opens in new tab)
The road to the perfect stock photograph begins with careful planning about what and how to shoot. There’s no point in capturing an image if there’s no demand for it, at the same time as designers and art directors are crying out for pictures about specific subject areas. So it’s up to Maskot to bridge the gap between demand and supply.
“We do a lot of creative research before we start shooting,” says Mattias. “Obviously we look at the sales stats and stuff like that, to see if there are any content gaps that need to be filled.” But that’s only one side to it: they also need to anticipate future demand, in order that they can meet it in a timely manner. “So we also do a lot of study of social trends, like food, culture, people’s behaviour,” he adds. “This has led us to do shoots on, for example, urban farming, boomerang families and seniorpreneurs.”
Sometimes that means they’re ahead of the curve: “Urban farming is a great example. It didn’t sell, for two years. But then it started selling, and became a big seller.” But it’s a risk they’re willing to take, because from the creative’s point of view, too early is far more important than too late.
02. Plan the shoot perfectly
Once Maskot has decided on its subject, the shoot itself needs to be planned with military precision. Getting the location right, for example, is very important. “It can lift the entire shoot but it can also ruin it,” says Mattias. “So we’re very careful about where we’re shooting.”
Props are also something that need to be managed thoughtfully, from the most important to the most trivial. “You of course need to focus on the main props, such as a beautiful bike if you show people commuting to work,” he says. “But in our eyes, true excellence lies in the rest, in the incidental stuff that lies around the image.”
03. Art direction(opens in new tab)
Once everything is in place, then as Mattias puts it: “It’s time for execution, time be on set, it’s time for excellence.” And the most important thing on the day is to provide strong art direction, so that the resulting images will tell the story they need to tell. “Good direction encourages the people in the shoot to create the right atmosphere, and make sure they have fun,” he explains. “That’s very important in creating a image that looks unstaged.”
04. Be authentic
Authenticity is crucial for all of the images Maskot produces, he says. “We firmly believe there is a big, big need for great looking images with an authentic touch and feel. We want to produce images that are inspired by real people.”
To take one example, we’ve all seen images disabled people that are very stereotyped or staged. “So we try to focus more on everyday life situations in an authentic way, and the way to do this is to use real people,” says Matthias. “For example, we wouldn’t put a non-disabled person in a wheelchair, it would need to be someone who actually uses a wheelchair, to make it authentic and real.
Similarly, when they were portraying someone living with diabetes, they needed to use someone who really has diabetes. “We followed him throughout his day: on the way to work, at home, shopping,” says Mattias. “It was important we could capture the whole day, because it’s more about their lifestyle than just their illness.”
05. Make diversity matter(opens in new tab)
Right now, here’s a huge demand for images that show diversity, says Mattias, but it’s not just about showing a broader representation of people and lifestyles, but avoiding stereotypes and being patronising. And some attitudes are so ingrained, that can be a constant battle.
“On set, for examples. we have to constantly ensure that people do not fall into the old habits of gender,” he explains. “For example, in a business setting, when the viewer’s eye drops into the photos the females should be in focus: that’s very important to us. Similarly, the men in the picture need to be listening to the women. It’s a constant work at directing those things in the shoot.”
In short, it’s important to Maskot that their images don’t confirm old habits and negative stereotypes. “This it all comes down to when we cast and when we shoot. We might take traditional gender roles and switch them around. There is a huge demand for these kind of photos. Companies want to use images like this to show they’re a modern company. So we need to think about diversity on all our shoots, rather than making it a specific subject in itself.”
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