Born and raised in Denmark, Jacob Lund was educated in the country’s military and police force. He made the leap into professional photography in 2015. Jacob has offices in Cape Town, South Africa, and Copenhagen, Denmark. Today he works alongside another photographer, Courtney Jacobs, and a post-production team.
We spoke with Jacob about his creative process, his aesthetic, the business of stock photography and advice for getting started in the field.
Hi Jacob! Tell us a little about yourself — when did you first become interested in photography and how did you get to where you are today?
My interest in photography started in my late teenage years, when I was in a group that practiced parkour and martial arts. We made shows and videos that we put online. I remember we decided to invest in a DSLR camera to take better action pictures of ourselves. This is where I think my interest and curiosity started, since I realized that I enjoyed being more behind a camera than in front of it. I tried to get a few jobs here and there, but it really didn’t work out for me. I made no money, and I had to find a proper job. I became a police officer in Copenhagen, and it was only about 5 or 6 years later that I decided to give photography another try outside of work. By doing this, I was able to maintain a safe income, and let the money earned from photography be reinvested into new photography projects and new equipment. This strategy worked way better. Slowly and steadily, I started building my photography business.
How do you feel the commercial and stock photography world has changed over the years? Has there been a difference in the types of content requested by clients or consumers?
When online stock agencies started, it was all about just providing a library of photography to illustrate anything people would need. You could shoot a snapshot photo of hands typing on a keyboard, or you could take a random picture of a cup of coffee, and it would sell. There wasn’t much competition, so if you could just provide pictures of different elements that people would need to illustrate, then you could make sales. Today the market is way more saturated. Now it’s really about creating quality content, and also shooting relevant concepts. The general quality of stock content has seen a drastic increase, which I also think has led bigger industry players like advertising agencies, etc., to more often look for stock imagery.
How would you describe your own aesthetic, and how has it changed over time?
I would describe it as lifestyle photography focused on people and moments that feel real. But my aesthetic keeps changing over time — when I look back at the content I shot 5 years ago, it’s certainly not the way I would shoot it today. Trends and looks are ever-changing, and that also keeps us on our toes to keep producing relevant content.
Walk us through your creative process — how do you create and put together a shoot?
It usually starts with brainstorming ideas on concepts we would like to shoot. We gather a bunch of ideas, and usually we go with the ones that we feel the most excited about shooting. We then collect reference images and create mood boards. From there the production starts taking place — finding the right location, cast, styling, etc. Finally we create a shoot plan which includes the most crucial shots to get during the photoshoot. And then we go shoot!
Do you have a favorite camera body and lens you like to use? Is there any software or equipment that’s essential for you?
We shoot with the Canon 5DSR as our main work horse for still productions. I think by now we’ve worked our way through 3 or 4 of those cameras. Honestly I couldn’t pick another existing camera that I would rather shoot with, regardless of price. For video we recently started shooting on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 6K. This feels like it has a the balance of price and quality for us.
What has been one of the most memorable photo projects you’ve worked on?
We had been planning a shoot in The Maldives for about 6–7 months. We were going to shoot there in March 2020. This would probably be my biggest project to date. So many challenging aspects — how to get equipment there, how to get models there, how to shoot everything we wanted in a short time.
Two weeks before the shoot, we got contacted by a client who wanted us to shoot in Los Angeles the week leading up to our Maldives project. It was an amazing opportunity, and we couldn’t say no. So we were left with one less week to get ready, and had to pack and plan for two projects — one in LA and one in The Maldives. That was pretty stressful.
We ended up shooting for 6 full days in LA, then on the final shoot day went straight to the airport to jump on a flight to the other side of the planet for another 7 full days of shooting. But the Maldives project was the most amazing job ever — we shot at the most beautiful luxury resort, and I’m so grateful that we got to carry it out.
Weeks later it was almost impossible to fly anywhere because of the Coronavirus outbreak.
How important is it to you to add storytelling and/or communicate ideas through a photograph? What are some ways that photographers can add these types of layers into a photo?
Storytelling is extremely important to me. It’s easy to create a nice looking, Instagram-worthy image, but creating an image that is nice looking but also communicates a clear idea or concept, that’s what it’s all about for us. Photographers can do this by really thinking about what kind of idea or concept they are trying to communicate, and then try to visualize the ideal way to photograph it before they begin shooting.
What would you change about the art or business of photography today?
I find it concerning that so many stock photography agencies are pushing down prices, which means less and less commission for photographers. It’s very costly to produce high-quality content. You need a good camera, lenses, and lights. You need to pay your crew, your models, and your location fees. Post-production is expensive too. These expenses have to be covered by the commission that will (hopefully) come in when clients license the images, and any profit usually goes towards funding the next photoshoot. But if commission is not enough to cover the expenses, or fund the next production, then the chain breaks, and we simply won’t be able to keep shooting content. So it’s really a matter of sustainability. If you want to have the flow of quality content coming in the years to come, you need to take a stand and keep the prices and commissions fair. You must also educate your clients that quality costs. Just like a consumer in a supermarket understands that buying organic costs a bit more, but it ensures sustainability for generations to come. Sustainability is really the keyword here. People must understand that something that is not sustainable will ultimately cease to exist — that’s the literal meaning of the word!
What has been your biggest challenge since starting out in photography?
During my very first attempt to become a professional photographer, I bet all my money on going full-time, despite the fact that I didn’t have much experience or any training. I believed that I could start from 0. I had no other income. I failed big time. After a few months I saw that I wasn’t making nearly enough money to support my basic needs. I ran completely out of money. It hurt. It ended up affecting people around me. I had to get a loan from my family to get back on my feet. That’s when I decided to put aside photography and apply for a job in the police. It was only years later that I decided to pick up on photography again. I had learned a tough lesson in my first try, and it made my second attempt way more successful.
What important piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in photography?
Photography is so many things. Explore what kind of photography you are good at and you enjoy. Find your niche. When you have it then just keep shooting. Repetition is the mother of all skill.