Lise Gagné Shoots Stock: Unique Designs & Top Technique

Lise Gagné is a stock photographer from Quebec City, Canada. An exclusive contributor with istockphoto.com since her first photo submission in 2003, she is a superstar on the popular microstock website.

Sound Waves

“This image depicts wave forms which can represent sound or even illustrate Wi-Fi. Like many images, it’s generic enough that a buyer can interpret its meaning for a variety of uses.”
All Photos © Lise Gagné

Lise’s story is one of passion, persistence, ingenuity, and timing. As a graphic designer she often used photography in her work. One day, when searching for an image she needed for a project, she came across istockphoto.com and was immediately attracted to the idea of creating images for the then emerging market of RF (Royalty Free) images.

Lise had always been inspired by photography and this discovery sparked her imagination. After purchasing her first SLR she started creating themed imagery, often using herself as a model, right in her apartment. She not only started making money but also quickly built her reputation on unique themed images with a touch of whimsy and impeccable design sense. Her boss, aware of her evening photo shoots, told her one day, “It’s obvious this is your passion. Go do it.” She was then fired. She’s made a living as a stock photographer ever since, though she fully admits that her timing was perfect, as online microstock agencies were just in their infancy when she started. She shoots constantly and now has the time and finances to travel to unique locations for special shoots, various istockphoto events, and even conducts workshops for other stock photographers.

Chimp Business

“It was a dream for me to do a photo session with a chimpanzee. I like this kind of character, funny and kind of nerdy. Here I wanted to illustrate that anyone can use a digital tablet even a chimp (and he was actually able to use it).”

I caught up with Lise at her home studio in Quebec City to discuss her workflow when she is out in the field. Her English is actually quite good (she natively speaks French) but she prefers to have her husband Louis LeBlanc around for translation. Louis is also an exclusive contributor with istockphoto and he shoots video clips, usually right alongside Lise. He’s also one of her best models and appears in many of her best-selling images. Yes, she still gets in front of the camera. Since they usually travel together, over time they’ve developed a very simple setup.

Lise uses a Nikon D3X (and at this writing she was waiting for a D800 to arrive). She takes two basic lenses with her, a 24-70mm f/2.8 and a 70-200mm f/2.8. The D3X provides dual CF card slots so she places 32GB SanDisk cards in each one and shoots each card simultaneously. Depending on the extent of the shoot, she may never exchange these cards out.

Mad Scientist

“The Mad Scientist is a classic. We set up a fake laboratory in our studio and brought in lots of props to play around with in an exaggerated manner. We were going for funny and absurd.”

“I have become a selective shooter and I don’t fill up my cards the way I used to,” Lise says. “I make sure the lighting and the setting is just right and then I shoot exactly what I envisioned for each pose. This cuts down on my proofing and processing after I get home.”

Since Lise is not on any deadline for a magazine or news agency, she does all her processing at her home on her Mac G5 with Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5. She decided she could travel even lighter if she didn’t bring a computer since she was only using it to proof the day’s images. Unless she is doing a workshop where she needs to make a presentation, she leaves the laptop at home. First thing that comes to mind when traveling without a computer is—how do you back up your cards? Lise doesn’t back them up anymore, ever since moving to 32GB cards. She just makes sure she has enough for the shoot and never lets them out of her sight.

Happiness

“We actually bought this car especially for photo shoots. This particular shot was considered a test. It started selling very well as soon as I uploaded it, so now we use the MG often in our shoots.”

“When I don’t have a computer, I’m not compelled to look over my images in the evening or after a shoot,” Lise explains. “This allows me to just focus on the creative aspect of the shoot and not pull my thoughts in different directions.

“While other photographers are spending their evening fretting over their shots,” Lise adds, “I’d rather have a nice dinner with Louis where we can casually discuss our shooting strategy for the next day.”

While focus is key to quality images, it’s critical in stock. Instead of shooting away and hoping one or two shots work, Lise is meticulous that her main subject is tack-sharp at 100 percent, so she checks the LCD viewfinder to confirm focus on every shot. She will delete test shoots from the card but leaves all others, even if the focus isn’t perfect. She waits until she loads the card onto her studio computer. While she could reduce the size of the image in the event the subject is slightly soft, the size of an RF image often determines the price, so she likes to make sure she has every size possible available for download sale.

Valentine

“Two years ago, I started a series with this bourgeois couple (my husband and me). I shoot them for seasonal themes and this one is obviously for Valentine’s Day. It’s kind of a story—buyers can follow them each season and the series has been selling well.”

She carries an iPhone, and sometimes an iPad; however, the only iPhone app that is in her regular workflow is called Sun Seeker. It tracks the sun, based on date, location, and time. She doesn’t professionally use any of the images she captures on her phone, though technically 5MP is large enough to submit for stock.

Family

“This image is part of a series I did for Mother’s Day. I wanted the images to convey simple things integral to a family such as happiness, fun, connection, love.”

It might seem Lise has it made with a nice residual income from almost 8000 images on file, but she says it’s necessary to continually push herself creatively (such as a recent “business” shoot with a chimpanzee) as her work is often emulated. Stock photography was never an easy field, as your technicals need to be near perfection. However, it’s due to creative and prolific artists such as Lise Gagné that unique and out-of-the-box imagery has never been more of a prerequisite to success.

Jumping

“This is part of another series I revisit often and that is the businessman in a suit, bowler hat, and umbrella. Sometimes he wears a monocle. This was a beautiful day in the countryside and we shot many concepts that day. The open umbrella on a sunny day is both odd and compelling.”

Contacts
www.istockphoto.com/lisegagne
www.lisegagne.com

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COMMENTS
AliyahFrost's picture

For every moments that is captured there is always memories that is left behind it that we want to reminisce every time we that particular photo. - Reputation

mireille's picture

I don`t remember this kind of service existing like ten years ago. I think it turns out to be true what I have noticed so far, that markets evolve directly proportional to the rising of the public`s latest needs. Just think how the design and the LED signage services have evolved lately and you will manage to get the big picture of all these achievements.

zacsifac's picture

Design has turned out to be the competitive advantage in the geophysical instruments area. I have come to think about this many times. Why has this been happening this way? All I can think of is that the public is nowadays more educated and knows more about art and trends.

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