Learning HTML for IE6 using tables, offering web programming and graphic design services, getting your ideas out without self-editing, and the definition of passion. This week we meet Stephen Emlund (stemlund) from PhotoDune and GraphicRiver.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from, what do you do for a living?
My name is Stephen Emlund. I’m 25 years old and I live and work in Kirksville, Missouri. My background stems from a degree in visual communications and field experience that includes photography, editorial design and website development and design. I’ve been selling stock photography for two years.
In 2008, two months before graduating college, I opened my own design firm, Creative Improv. CI offers web programming and graphic design services to a variety of clients, from up-and-coming musicians to churches and universities. Together with my creative director (my former high school band teacher with whom I share a love of jazz music and saxophone), I create memorable, results-oriented websites, logos, and more. Establishing an effective web and brand presence for clients through creative design is what I do every day.
Since 2009, I’ve been a full-time web developer at a medical university where I have created several award-winning websites for the university. Most recently, I’ve been part of a team that is re-envisioning the university website and creating solutions to various design and function challenges. I also serve as the go-to person for creatively utilizing social media.
Which marketplaces do you belong to? What types of files do you sell?
I contribute to PhotoDune and GraphicRiver. I sell mainly stock photography.
How did you get started? Have you had any formal training?
In high school I learned HTML (IE6 and tables!) and that got me interested in website design and development – which in-turn led me to graphic design. I attended a small liberal arts college in Kirksville, MO and graduated with a BFA in Visual Communication in 2008.
Even though I didn’t learn website development in college, my graphic design courses prepared me well for creating great looking websites. Learning the new way to layout websites (DIVS, XHTML and CSS) came quickly. I basically learned how to use DIVs, CSS (and WordPress to top it all off) for one specific website project.
Being under contract to complete something is a good (or bad?) way to force yourself to learn that thing you always wanted to learn. Since graduating college, I’ve learned new skills such as photography and motion graphics.
Describe your home workspace.
The workspace for my full-time job is a work in progress. It started out as a cluttered and dusty basement work room and we slowly turned it into what you see now. The photography and artwork is mostly all my own and is inspired by my love for jazz music.
I’ve got dual 23″ monitors running Windows 7. I’ve also got a big lounge chair (not pictured) for when I need a break.
The coolest part of my workspace is that an ‘old dog’ photography is across the hall, a videographer is a few doors down and an amazing photo-illustration expert shares the office next door. This is at a medical university, mind you.
Describe your creative process. What steps do you normally follow to create your files?
- My creative process for a web design starts with a lot of thinking, planning, brainstorming – mostly in my head. If it’s a website project, I will research technical requirements, plugins, frameworks, etc that I plan to utilize first then I will begin the sketching and designing.
- I then sketch some ideas out on paper, making notes along the way. This where I’m getting out all my ideas and trying not to self-edit. Sketching helps me find the layouts that won’t work and the ones that have potential.
- The next step is to move to Photoshop and fully develop the best sketches with color and font choices.
- Next, I usually let my design sit for a day and come back with a fresh set of eyes. I make more design tweaks until I’m ready to have a few close designer friends critique it for me.
- I’ll then send it to a few designer friends and give them my creative brief and ask for input.
- This is where the design really starts to come together. I take their feedback and figure out what I should change.
- At this point the design is usually ready for client review and then coding.
My photography process is much less structured and built more around pure inspiration. Since I’m new to photography, I’m always learning about how to create sharp, well-exposed images. I find that my best photos have come from times when I was just experimenting with a new technique and not worrying about creating a ‘stock-worthy’ photo.
What is your advice to other authors regarding how to create a successful portfolio?
- I’m very new to Envato, but from my stock photography experience, I would say that keywording is one of the best ways to be successful. Spend time finding the best keywords.
- Create photos that have a theme – whether it’s college students or photos geared toward a holiday. Know that vacation snapshots don’t necessarily have a lot of commercial value.
- From experience, photos with copy space sell well. Leave room for the designer to add text to your photo. The easier it is for a designer to create their finished layout from your photo, the more it will sell.
- Create photos that express an abstract concept (emotions).
What do you do to market your files?
Honestly I don’t do much marketing of my files – except for sharing new files on my social media profiles. In Google+, I’ve created a circle of friends who consist of only Envato authors.
What are your three favorite files, and why do you like them?
I stayed up until 3 pm on a Friday night trying out light painting and came up with this. I love the color and that there are natural bursts of light around the L and O.
I love this one because of the work I spent shooting smoke and integrating it into this shot. The vase was found at an antique store. A lot of time and energy went into finding the vase, shooting the smoke, shooting the vase and combining it all into a final piece.
I like the slight vintage colorization on this as well as the composition and lighting.
Apart from yourself, who is your favorite marketplace author, and why do you like them?
My favorite marketplace author at this time would be ChrisMooney and his AudioJungle music. Being a jazz musician, I love his music and seriously want to jam with him. A few favorites – Down Town Jazz and Funky Chicken.
What do you do in your spare time?
In my spare time, I spend time with my beautiful wife. I also just really enjoy taking photos and designing… so I like to do my ‘work stuff’ in my free time. Isn’t that the definition of passion?