Florian Küttler is a latecomer. Not before he was already in his mid thirties he decided to become a photographer. After two years he successfully finished his apprenticeship in 2012 and has been working on commercial jobs and also in the stock photography market since then.
This interview is all about the stock photography, his photo-productions, what his plans are in 2015 and about his favorite images.
Dear Florian, your résumé is pretty exciting, you became a photographer when you were already in your thirties. How did that happen?
Well, it was actually rather exciting for my wife and my kids, because I had to go „back to school“ for two years to finish my training as a photographer. The reason for this decision was, that my first profession sure faced me with a lot challenges, experiences and responsibility but i never gained inner balance or satisfaction doing it.
Do you feel all that now?
Well, I did not turn into a Buddhist monk in trance mode all of a sudden. But i do have the feeling that I am much more flexible and also able to coordinate work and family much better – thanks to my wife as well. That makes me very happy.
You also work for commercial clients. Why don´t you concentrate on stock photography only?
I quite like the fact that i can transport my experiences from my commercial photo jobs into the stock photography – and vice versa. I think I benefit from that. Let´s take my experiences with organizing big image productions. I was able to successfully sell them as a package to big commercial clients in order to build up an internal image pool – starting with planning and organizing up to the actual shoot and even up to post production.
What led you to stock photography? What does stock photography mean to you?
During my apprenticeship I had a little blog about photography, that no longer exists because i have no time to work on it any longer. Anyways, I kept running into stock photography. Right away i liked the diversity of topics and themes, the requirements in your work and the independency as well as it is all your own responsibility. And i still like that.
While writing this blog i came into contact with you. I liked an interview with Klaus Mellenthin that you had in your blog a lot and published it back then. Finally i came to Westend 61 as a photographer and stayed, because the agency convinces me.
How do you deal with the fact that there is no fixed but a variable income?
Well, i actually see it the opposite way. Once you have gathered a certain amount of images in your portfolio it is the stock photography which offers you a stable income. In the commercial photography that is much more vague.
That is a very good way of seeing it and you are absolutely right as long as the quality is as good as yours. When I met you I thought: „ That is not only a nice guy, he´s got talent as well!“ That´s why I asked our art director Michael Kopal to work with you. I think that was just the right decision. What do you think?
Puh, thanks for the compliment!
For the first time it was quite unusual. Up to then i had never showed my complete output to anyone before finishing it. But I realized quickly that it was perfect to have Michael by my side more often. As a Photographer in a complexe shooting situation you are Author, Director and DOP all at the same time. That might lead you into a one-way-street. Since Michael and I both speak the same „image“-language, I enjoy working on storyboards with him beforehand. It is good to have someone with you who says things like „It´s a wrap“ or „Have you seen that?“ or „Give it more copy space“ while shooting. That increases safety, output, quality and finally the income all at the same time.
Which of your several shootings was the most fun for you and why?
That is really difficult to answer. Looking at it now I probably had the most fun with those shootings that earned me the most money. While shooting, that might have been different though. In the end it pretty much was the shooting of „creative chaos“.
But there is also the pretty new winery-production. This was almost relaxing and a training in enology. A short trip into the most beautiful parts of Germany to meet very nice and hospitable wine-growers. I admit that this memory might be influenced by one or the other glass of wine while shooting – just for authentic reasons of course.
Well, in case that is true, it is absolutely ok. The results are wonderful pictures. Now straightforward, which is your favorite image at Westend 61?
That´s even harder to answer. Let me turn the table around: Which one is yours?
Ok, that is indeed not easy to answer, i love a lot of your pictures. But somehow, there is one that keeps coming into my mind, we have also used it as a header on our facebook-site. It is the two girlfriends with balloons looking over Berlin.
This image has such a pure positive character. Do you like my choice?
Yes, the shooting was very special. It was the perfect weather, the unique location and the atmosphere during the shoot that made it „perfect“. I think the image does transport that.
From your point of view, do you take a high financial risk with your productions? You do have quite some expenses: Models, Location, Styling, Preparation. How do you calculate?
Well, the risk is relative and depends a lot on the photographers experience, the markets demand for the particular topic of the shoot and last but not least your own personal style to shoot and to finish up the images.
Due to my very few experiences with micro stock – I set my limit to invest just around a few hundred euros at first. Now I am planning shootings that are a multiple of that.
In the end I subtract these costs – Models, Visa, Location – from the overall profit of one shoot.
In all „ripe“ productions – the ones that already sell on the market constantly – I gain a break-even mostly after 9 months. Some productions might sell a bit slower but you have to take the whole portfolio into consideration. And that definitely produces profit.
But that is only half of the truth. To those direct costs that I named, you would actually have to add the indirect work before and after a shoot. That I will start doing this year.
Besides that, I optimize my processes all the time. The more productions I work on in a year, the more scatters the effort for things like location-check and building up a model pool. The more experiences you gather, the better you produce your images so that work in postproduction minimizes. Eventually – next to analytic numbers – I develop a feeling for what sells and what does not.
That sounds very good. Which quality does it take to become a successful stock photographer?
I think, next to the typical qualities of being a good photographer, the experiences that I gathered in my former profession help me a lot: structuring, planning, controlling and a good portion of stubbornness.
How do you see the image market? The number of images on the market increases by several million each year. Are you afraid of that?
I think, my images are very well-placed at the market through Westend61. Therefore i am not very afraid. Lifestyle-Photographers have an enormous advantage anyways. Trends and fashion change permanently so that there will always be a demand for new images on the market. Therefore you will still need images in 50 years from now and high quality images will always come out on top.
What kind of productions do you plan in 2015? Are you already preparing any shoots and want to reveal a bit about it?
I do have a lot of plans for 2015. I would like to realize approximately 20 shoots and I am already really looking forward to that. For example I will shoot at a pharmacy, in a creative agency that is furnished very nicely and also I will shoot in a traditional crafts business. But that is all i will tell you now.
Alright, last question: Why is Westend 61 the perfect home to your images?
Westend61 = roundcarefreepackagewithmaximumcare
Dear Florian, thank you very much for the conversation.
The interview was led by Gerald Staufer, executive director at Westend 61