By: Stocksy

Contributor Interview: Ana Luz Crespi

We’re excited to share the Contributor Interview with Ana Luz Crespi with you. Read on to discover their passion for dance, how they make sure people are feeling comfortable and at ease, and what role creative briefs play in their creation process.

Can you tell us a bit more about your journey as a photographer that led up to joining Stocksy United?

I started in 2010 casually photographing dancer friends. At that time I was into swing dancing a lot, and started photographing my friends in the swing scene here in Buenos Aires. Soon other people started asking for photos so I decided to open for business. I didn’t have any formal education on photography, as happens with a lot of photographers. I was learning on the go and was so happy doing it that I never stopped learning nor working ever since. In 2011 I was fired from my corporate job (I was a project manager at a digital marketing company) and never looked back.

The next 10 years I worked as a portrait, boudoir and events photographer, doing a lot of weddings and a lot of swing events. I traveled a bit to shoot for international swing festivals in Sweden, New York and Brazil. I shot and still shoot a lot of the swing scene in Buenos Aires. And also, I dedicated a lot of time to teach workshops about various photography topics along the years, because I love teaching.

Then 2020 and the pandemic happened and everything stopped. My cousin Leandro had told me many times about Stocksy and that I should try and apply, but for years I didn’t listen to him. I didn’t understand stock photography and I guess I was comfortable doing what I was doing.

But then, everything changed. We were in the middle of a global pandemic, with client work paused, no events and no teaching, so when he brought Stocksy up again, this time I thought that it may be a good idea to finally listen to him, and I gave it a try.

I was so lucky and happy when I became a part of this beautiful co-op! And since then, my work life has changed for the better, because now I have a new found freedom and a good reason to shoot things I want to shoot and explore along the way, without the restraints of client work.

We are impressed with the growth that you have achieved in your time as a contributor. What do you feel is important when trying to grow your portfolio at a steady pace?

I think a good way to do it is to shoot one or two projects every month, that is what I am trying to do now. That keeps the engines running and you can plan easier, low key shoots if you are not on your most creative moment, but just keep shooting.

Then, sometimes inspiration (or opportunity) strikes hard and I may shoot 3 or 4 projects in a month, suddenly producing a lot of material at once. And then I can rest for the next month or two because I have a lot of material to upload and keep my portfolio growing steadily.

Your work often captures concepts mentioned in the Creative Briefs in a natural and candid way. How do you plan your shoots to ensure that you touch on these concepts while maintaining your style?

I pay much attention to the Creative Briefs and to the insights the Staff shares in the Quarterly Reports. Reading both is a big part of how I decide what concepts I should shoot next. When I choose a concept I write it down in my “Bad Ideas” Stocksy notebook and then break down the specific actions, images, or vibes that I want to photograph.

This helps me have somewhere to start off, even if the final result looks different and surely will include things that came up in the moment.

Then I think about what kind of model I could use. I want to have a diverse portfolio so I try to include people of diverse styles, gender expression, ethnicity, age, and body types. None of the people I work with are models, so I can’t ask them to model. I just ask them to do stuff they do in their daily life, and I do it in a playful, very relaxed way, so they can have fun and be themselves. Sometimes the lifestyle stuff leads to portraits, and if it does, then I guide them a little bit, but not too much, so I can get natural portraits.

All of the people you work with look so comfortable and confident. How do you go about selecting your models and what is your secret for making them feel so at ease in front of a camera?

None of my models are professional models. I do mostly lifestyle and portraits, so not having professional models works fine for my style. Some models are my close friends. They are used to model for me because for 10 years I taught a “Portrait Workshop” every month, and they were my models multiple times. I think this created a nice dynamic where they have “model gigs” with me every now and then that they enjoy and have fun with, while I create new material.

Then I have a second pool of people that are people I know from here and there and that I offer collabs to. In today’s world everybody needs photos for something, so sometimes in the same shoot we do stuff for them and stuff for me, a nice collab that makes everyone happy. And finally, last year I started to do casting calls to add diversity that I couldn’t find among my friends and people I know, and that is how I met really cool transgender and non-binary people with whom I have been shooting lately.

I think my secret to making people feel at ease is to be kind, silly and very easy going. I can relate to anyone I met five seconds ago and I make it a mission to make people feel good about themselves when they spend time with me. I want people to feel pretty, valuable and appreciated while we shoot, and I talk a lot to them while we are shooting so they feel engaged and seen.

We’re currently nearing the middle of the year. Do you have any goals for the rest of the year?

I would like to reach 4000 assets at Stocksy before 2022 ends. I already have some ideas and some models chosen to make at least the next 5 shoots, so we’ll see if I can make it. Fingers crossed!

What is your motivation/driving force to create the work you create?

Right now I am on a mission to portray diversity. It was always important to me to have a diverse portfolio in terms of style, body type, gender, ethnicity, and age. I feel there is a lot of good to be done to society just by keeping stock media diverse and creating representation for the huge variety of humans that exists in this world.

One of the reasons I am so happy at Stocksy is because I think the Coop gets that and there is a strong vision and commitment to create a collection that doesn’t leave anybody out. It warms my heart and makes me proud to see how many Stocksy artists portray a diverse universe of people in multiple and creative ways in their own work and I want to be a part of it too. I want to be a part of the change on how we see ourselves and what we see as beauty and what we say is beautiful.

Do you have any hidden talents besides creating your wonderful work?

Well, I can swing dance! I am in love with lindy hop and jazz era urban dances, that is why I always keep shooting lindy hoppers and dancers, they were my first love when I started with photography. Right now I am very rusty and can’t dance like I used to, but I am picking up dance classes again.

For several years I co-organized an international lindy hop festival in Buenos Aires and also was a lindy hop teacher and performed with several dance partners and dance crews for some years. If you are curious, you can watch this video of me dancing in 2009.

How do you make sure that your work still stays enjoyable and that you don’t burn out on creating new content?

I don’t put too much pressure on myself, but at the same time I am used to shooting all year round because for 10 years client work kept me busy shooting several sessions every month, I really never stopped until the pandemic. I think that was the first time that I spent more than 1 month without doing a shoot. That was a big reset, and in retrospect, a needed one.

With client work I have to keep shooting even when I don’t feel like it, but with stock I can make 3 shoots in a month and then stop for a bit until I get new ideas. Usually my shoots are big in numbers, and it takes me a while to process from edit to publish, so I have material to upload to Stocksy for some time and my shooting breaks are not much noticed.

What is the one bit of advice you wish you knew from the start?

That you can go places with your photography even if you don’t have the best camera or gear. I still don’t own a full frame camera, after 12 years of living out of my photography. I will have one someday soon, but not having a “professional camera” didn’t stop me from traveling to amazing places with my work, from having amazing clients, from being accepted at Stocksy or from creating work I am really happy with.

Creative blocks can happen to everybody, what works for you to get out of them?

I just patiently wait them out. I can’t always stop shooting when this happens, so I just wait until the block passes. In the meantime I shoot in a more automated, methodic mode and suffer a little bit with the results which aren’t always super great, hehe, but I know that time will bring new ideas, creative juices and drive to shoot. It’s a part of being a professional photographer, you can’t always stop when you are not inspired.

Is there something that you can not go without while creating new work? And why is this so important?

Mmm, I am not much about gear, but I like to shoot with prime lenses, I do almost all my shoots with a 35mm and a 50mm. I have other lenses but these two are the ones I use the most, specially for stock projects.

“I think my secret to making people feel at ease is to be kind, silly and very easy going”

Do you have any advice for contributors just starting out at Stocksy?

Yes! Pay attention to the Creative Briefs and to the reports that Staff shares with us quarterly, there is tons of info, ideas and inspiration to get from them. It is very important to shoot stuff that is needed in the collection and doing it will contribute directly to your sales.

Stock is a long race so don’t despair if it takes some months to start to see some regularity in sales. Just keep uploading.

Oh, and one thing that is important and we don’t talk about much: once you’ve been here for at least six months or a year, start looking into and analyzing your stats. Analyze which shoots, models and galleries sell more (this is another good reason to use galleries and keep them very up to date). You will get very valuable information from your statistics page. Check the number of downloads instead of royalties, that will give you a more accurate idea of what is selling more. You will see what are the trends inside your own portfolio and by reflecting on them you will be able to decide if you want to repeat and get deeper with a model, a concept, a theme, an idea etc. When I don’t know what new thing to shoot, I just repeat, for example, a concept that is already working well and do it again, but with different models for diversity, in a different place and usually adding improvements or small changes for variety.

Discover more authentic lifestyle stock from Ana Luz Crespi