Q&A With Pexels Photography Curator: Daria Shevtsova

Image credit: Daria Shevtsova

Like many of the great art galleries and museums, Pexels has a curation team responsible for reviewing all the photos submitted daily (over 2000 images per day!). Daria and the rest of the curation team are the first set of eyes on all images submitted to Pexels and the final nod on which images get featured. We sat down with Daria to find out everything from her favorite apps to how a photo can garner millions of views on Pexels.

When curating photos for Pexels, what are some of the key things you look for in a good photo?

At Pexels, we try to put an accent two main things: the subject of the image and it’s visual and aesthetic appeal. This way when we go through the image log, we look specifically for the photos that have that right visual to subject balance to them.

I also think a good photo has the ability to evoke emotion. And if it’s an art-related photo you can almost certainly and almost always see or feel that through the image.

  Image credit: 1) Dazzle Jam 2) Ursula Madariaga 3) Rakicevic Nenad

What are some trends you’re seeing in a lot of photos that get uploaded to Pexels?

2018 is all about authenticity, diversity, mindfulness, real emotions. Many of the photos we’re seeing have one of these underpinning themes.

Last month, as part of our Pexels Challenges, we launched a campaign called Everyday People, aimed at making stock photography (and not specifically stock but all photography presented in media) less sterile and more diverse and close to the life of an actual, modern person. Since the launch of the campaign we’ve seen a huge surge in the uploads for this very specific topic.

Image credit: nappy

Some photographers on Pexels have millions of views. How can a new photographer contributing to Pexels achieve those results?

1) Upload consistently. Don’t necessary upload everything, but do small batches of 2–4 pictures per day.

2) Be a good judge of your own work.

3) Build a beautiful gallery of your work.

4) Fill the gaps. Users can add photos to topics they are unsatisfied with. So if when you’re searching for a specific keyword and you’re unhappy with the results, that could mean it’s an area of opportunity.

  Image credit: 1) nappy 2) Josh Sorenson 3) Scott Webb

What are some of the reasons that a photo might not get approved?

The most common reasons are:

  • image quality and resolution
  • watermarks
  • lack of artistic intent

In terms of a more artistic photos, we really love to see photographers picking and choosing the work they upload. So, if a photographer submitted 50 beautiful images of a single tree at different angles, we would select only a few that we believe to be the best of the best. In that case, it’s better for the photographer to submit the best of the tree.

As for watermarks and image quality, we simply can’t approve any photos that have a watermark or low resolution.

What types of photos would you like to see more of?

I would like to see more unstaged, high-quality images and even more diverse images. There are still many gaps to be filled in those topics. I would also like to see more fine art images.

 Image credit: 1) Martin Péchy 2) Pete Johnson

Where do you get inspiration for your own photography?

My main source of inspiration is nature, people and spaces. What I’ve found at some point in my life is that when I go to a museum or a gallery I’m sometimes more interested in the negative space between the pieces rather than in the art itself. I think it brings a lot of inspiration to my personal work.

Current crush: favorite photo accessory or app?

I’m really into FOCOS recently. It’s an app that really brings the dual iPhone cameras to the next level. It allows me to achieve results somewhat similar to a mirrorless camera, and with a lot of flexibility, like adjusting the focal depth after taking the picture. It’s amazing for those moments where you see the perfect shot but don’t have your big camera with you.

   Image credit: Daria Shevtsova

Aside from curating at Pexels, do you have any other side work/projects or hobbies?

Photography is a lifelong hobby of mine and something I managed to turn into my job. It is still my passion and something I will always be interested in, learning new things, techniques and practices.

One of my recent projects was a shoot in Oslo for an amazing clothing designer whose works are inspired by nature and light, something I draw inspiration from too.

What’s it like work for Pexels?

It’s great to be a part of the photography community. You get to be in direct contact with a lot of talented photographers and see lots of incredible images. You have a chance to build something beautiful, to be a part of team of like-minded people. Everyone is working really hard on creating the biggest and most beautiful free image library that is open to everybody. And for me that is truly inspiring.

5 tips you can offer photographers to improve their photos?

  1. Choose an interesting subject.
  2. Pay attention to the composition of your photographs. If you’re unsure about how to improve your composition skills, start by reading articles on the Golden Triangle and the Rule of Thirds. These are common rules of thumb that will serve you well in your photography practice. Try different angles and viewpoints.
  3. Light is key! To photograph means to paint with light. Some easy tips to remember here would be adjusting the color temperature of the photos so that the objects remain natural-looking, unless of course it is your artistic intent to do otherwise.
  4. Don’t go crazy about chasing the latest and best photography equipment. Instead, learn as much as you can about your current gear.
  5. Get inspired by other photographers. Go to museums and art galleries. Find your own inspiration. Never stop learning and practicing your skills. Shoot with fellow photographers to share learnings.


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