Polish photographer Konrad Bak straddles the line between high concept fashion and lush fine art creations. Images collected in his book Konrad Bak PhotoART range from the elegant to the surreal could easily find a home in advertising campaigns or on gallery walls. However, Bak's work can surprisingly be found in the files of stock photography websites. challenging the perceptions of the quality and creativity many ascribe to stock.
Many view the microstock landscape as a marketplace where photographers sacrifice their creative integrity to appeal to the greatest number of people for downloads. Bak has embraced the marketplace without embracing the sacrifice in terms of quality or creativity.
Using both large scale productions and top level post-processing, Bak's images rival those created by national and international magazines and advertising agencies. That quality and creativity combine to make him one of the best selling stock photographers, yet relatively few people have heard his name. Shutterstock calls him a "fashion icon" creating images they describe as "over-the-top, fashion-forward fantasy-adventure" with the glamor and sophistication normally associated with glossy magazine ads for international fashion and luxury brands.
Bak began shooting stock photography in 2009 after an initial rejection from iStockphoto, but he persisted and was successful on his third attempt after which he discovered other stock agencies like Shutterstock (which holds a large portfolio of his images). Unlike the world's top selling stock photographer, Yuri Acurs, who tends to create more timeless and less specific images, Bak's portfolio is full of vibrant concepts and lush production that are generally not found in other portfolios. He can certainly still create the expected pleasing lifestyle images that are often associated with stock, but some editorial and advertising clients also seek a higher level of creativity and production.
His most popular microstock image has been a studio shot of a model wearing a Red Rose Dress while his most satisfying microstock image is a composite image of a Girl Watching Cat in Rain. Bak says, "I really like injecting timelessness and expression into typical stock photography. It's not the best way to achieve financial success or instantly get to most clients, but it's allowing me to keep my artistic mind fresh. I try to 'smuggle' artistic values into the commercial sphere," Bak says. "The best commercial ads you see on TV are affecting our emotional sphere, and that's why they are memorable. I'm primarily focused on stock imagery. This gives me a certain freedom to choose a specific photography area to work with."
Many of the images in his stock portfolio were created with a single strong light source, sometimes a hard, directional source while other times a large, softer source, with only minimal additional lighting. These studio shots are often combined seamlessly with backgrounds gathered from around the globe. This flexibility extends the range of images that can be drawn from a single photoshoot to a larger variety which can spread production budgets out over a greater number of images.
His book PhotoART is available as both an e-book and a limited edition B4+ format printed book released in 2016 of which 90% are already sold is still available from a link on his website. It contains over 360 fine-art and conceptual fashion photos and is the most extensive publication of his work to a wide audience. The printed book contains 322 pages with detail explanations (in Polish) with tips and tricks along with backstage photos.
"I value true photography. Without plastic motifs straight from the sexy magazines for men, but also not necessarily pure reportage photos because I like to interfere in my world of photography. I take the ideas from my head. Of course, it’s nice to watch the great masters and snatch something for myself, but as a rule, I use ideas that come from the depths of my head. I write down those ideas and try to develop themes," he says of his process. "Good photos demand hours of heavy preparation, analysis of the topic and demand, deliberate selection of the frame, and so forth. But the most successful pictures can be taken quite by chance, almost casually. I mostly concentrated on women’s beauty connected to nature, unique places and accessories. This makes my photos unusual."
Bak maintains a large studio in Wroclaw, Poland in an old German railway station building but tries to shoot at other interior and exterior locations as often as possible. He considers himself a one-man band using only one or two skilled assistants in his small crew even when creating intricate images in lush settings. His team's master-level post-production skills provide even more opportunities to create images by re-assembling and reusing images and elements to create additional images for release. His geographic location gives him access to many old-world locations and buildings such as abandoned castles and industrial buildings as well as lavish preserved interiors. In addition to nearby locations, Bak travels internationally to shoot both models and background for future stock images.
"I keep it rather simple. First comes the concept. Sometimes I got to get right balance between customer expectation and artistic self-expression. Then choosing the right models. I work with models who can act like actors, play real scenes instead of just posing. I think it's just the key to good photography." whether in the studio or on location he says. "After the shoot it's time for post-production. I think that 'photoshopping' is nowadays necessary to achieve a success in the professional photographic market. Everything that surrounds us becomes more and more perfect, sometimes it is really hard to keep up with it." Bak's book ends with examples of how some of the epic scenes were created and the individual components that go into making the final composite image.