Wednesday, May 21, 2014

iStockalypse Hong Kong

Have been slow in blogging this month because so many things are going on and now I can finally catch up on all those happenings. To begin, I took a week off from my regular work in early May to participate in the iStockalypse event in Hong Kong.

"What exactly is iStockalypse?" you might ask. Well, some of you probably heard of Getty Images before, for it is one of the world's biggest stock photo agencies, and this is the event organized by their iStock business unit, basically gathering their artistic team and contributors (mostly professional photographers) from around the world for a series of workshop and photo shoots in the hosting city, and this time, Hong Kong.

"What does iStockalypse has to do with you then?" I would probably never present myself as a photographer to anyone as I am not even close to being good at it, but I did start contributing as a freelancer for Getty Images around a year and half ago, putting up a tiny collection of pictures - mostly taken while I was traveling - for sale or licensing on their site. And believe it or not, from time to time those pictures did earn me some royalties when companies licensed them for commercial use - not a lot of money, but enough to subsidize my camera equipment, and as a hobbyist, it's an ecstatic feeling knowing people would actually use your pictures and even pay for them! (In the past I had sales from companies like Microsoft and Google, while some were published in magazines or books)

It's from Getty Images that I learned of the event a few months ago, and I figured since the event's held in my hometown this time I might take this opportunity to learn more and explore whether I can take this hobby to the next level. And the best of all, the event's open to everyone!

Morning Workshop - learning the current market trend in stock photography. (somehow the organizer chose to book this interesting venue at a high school auditorium in Causeway Bay as their homebase)

One of the many selfie shots we took - at Harbour City TST
During the 4-day event, half of the time we spent in workshops covering a wide range of topics from market trends to legal issues to techniques specific to stock photography, and half of the time we were out in town doing photo shoots. I am a complete stock photography newbie so I found the workshops extremely useful in learning all about the industry and how it works, what photographs people are looking for, how to take better photos and generate more sales. For example, little did I know there are so many restrictions in taking pictures of certain buildings for commercial use (like the iconic Sydney Opera House is actually out of bound without prior approval), or even a seemingly generic picture can generate huge and repeated sales if it conveyed the right message (think a simple picture with two hands shaking - how many times or versions have you seen those before?), or hey, #selfie gained the biggest jump in keyword search popularity last year - now you know why we took so many pictures of people taking selfies all week long.

Looking left, looking right - Temple Street Market

Nicely arranged parts of pork for sale - Wet Market at Pak Tin Estate
More importantly, during the week we went around shooting photographs and videos. One evening we were out walking in Temple Street Night Market then moved on to watch the "Symphony of the Stars" show at TST's harborfront promenade. Then the other afternoon we set off to a local wet market in Shek Kip Mei then ended up in the old Kowloon City to experience a "different" side of Hong Kong. It's a fun experience walking with photographers from around the world to see how they see our city from their lenses.

With scores of cameras, we did look like paparazzi
My favorite bit was on the third day when we did our shoots based on specific topics or concepts. Normally I am more comfortable taking photos of objects (mostly food) or landscape, but this gave me an opportunity to work with models for the first time. We worked in small groups and produced pictures of specific themes or concepts - those kind of pictures commonly used for advertising or business publications to convey a specific mood or message. In the morning we were at Harbour City working with two models in the theme of shopping and luxury, then in the afternoon we crossed the harbor and shot some business-related pictures in the financial district. I was surprised that some pictures I took turned out to be quite decent, out of my expectation actually, given I have never done this before, and to be honest, was a bit intimidated working along side with the professionals.

What message does this picture try to convey?
One-on-one Portfolio Review Session
On the last day, we sat down with their artistic team folks for a one-on-one portfolio review session which was quite useful as well. For me who's quite lost and obviously amateurish it's extremely useful receiving advice and pointers from people in the industry. It's also quite assuring to know I am somewhat heading towards the right directions and to learn what areas I need to work on to improve, when I showed them some of my previous work. And last but not least, we spent time socializing and mingling with one another, and just had a great time with new friends from all over the world. 

At first it may sound a bit random taking personal time off to do this, but I felt like this is a week well-spent, despite the weather wasn't quite cooperative (it's been raining and drizzling all week long) Who knows - I might even consider going to their future events even if I need to travel to get there! Bravo to the iStock team of putting together this wonderful event!

Here are some of the pictures we took during the week: And in case anyone's interested, here's my portfolio:

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