You are currently browsing the Mikhail Lavrenov blog posts tagged: photography


Belgian taxes for stock photographers

I thought it might be useful to share how taxation works in Belgium.

Remark: This is not an official tax advise and I am not responsible for any misunderstanding. I simply share what I learned from my accountant and what works for me.

Stock photography falls under simplified light taxation that applies to art/copyright works.

That means you don’t need to register a business (even self-employed is not necessary), you can declare the income as your personal.

The tax applied is 15%

You are allowed to declare 50% of your overall stock income as your cost, so 15% is taken from half of your income (up to the ceiling of 13,840 Eur for income 2009 – and you can declare 25% of income as cost for the second 13,840 Eur).

On a practical side – if you are filling paper tax declaration you need to request tax office to provide you the second part (that is usually used by business); if you are filling your tax online in tax-on-web you can enter data directly.

You declare your total income per year in Euro in field 1190; and half of the a mount as cost in field 1191 (if your annual income is <13,840 Eur). How to count the amount: Typically you don’t receive any supporting documents from stock agencies (unless it’s a German one). So just write down yourself every dollar amount that you transferred during reporting year from stock sites to your paypal account (or to your bank account or whatever method you used); and convert every transaction to Euro using historical exchange rate on that date (find in internet). Of course you keep Euro amount if you are receiving money from European agency. Then sum all Euro amounts and use it your for declaration. Attach your calculation to your declaration.

Photography studio found

I had an issue with a place for taking studio photos. I’ve done it at home for some time but it wasn’t a good option. I have too little space, and reflections from walls create a color cast on the pictures. I photographed in some places abroad, but I didn’t have a good place in Belgium that I could use regularly.

Finally I found a studio near Mechelen and tried it last Sunday. The location is good – not too far from Leuven (less than 40 minutes by car), close to a railway station (though small one), and close to Mechelen too. Also good that it’s large enough and have high ceiling. Very good price; and rather good selection of backgrounds. The only imperfection is that the lighting kit could have been better, and selection of softboxes/light modifiers isn’t large. But that isn’t a big issue taking into account the items I could bring myself in addition to those already in studio. It is also very convenient that the studio is accessible 24/7 via pre-paid badge system and online reservation.

One picture from that shoot:

Thomas and Emily
Copyright Mikhail Lavrenov


First full month with outsourced retouching

This is the first report about progress of my stock photography improvement plan.

October was the first full month when I used outsourcing for retouching. Also, I focused on production of photos specially for stock. Thus I didn’t loose time processing my random family/friends pictures for stock.

I must say I am quite happy that I decided to outsource. I easily produced 100 stock photos (which was my target for this year) and I feel that I can quite easily produce even more.

A positive side effect was improved acceptance rate. My acceptance rate at istock was around 75%, but in October it went up to ~98%. I believe it happened mainly because I didn’t spend time on non-stock photos; and didn’t experiment with processing/filters etc, making just straightforward adjustments and editing.

In October I had 2 stock photo sessions. In November I already had 1 and 1 in scheduled for this weekend.


Good time to photograph tulips

It’s great time to photograph tulips now while they are blooming. It’s a long weekend in Belgium and in neighbor countries and the weather is nice. A good place to go is Keukenhof in Netherlands, not far from Hague. Thousands of tulips of all different sorts and colors, and many other flowers.
Red passion


Strobist lighting

I often use flash for outdoor photography under daylight, but I still need to practice “strobist” style lighting in the dusk.

One particular setup I was thinking about is to repeat Leuven station photo with flash-lit figure of a commuter. I am not fully satisfied with the result I got but I think it’s decent for the first attempt.
Teenager waiting for train
It was made a couple of months ago but I din’t have a combination of free time and good weather to try to make it better.

Photographing toddlers

Have you tried photographing toddlers? Little children are cute, they are very natural and they make so many interesting poses and impressions… but if you tried capturing them you know how difficult it is!

First, child might be afraid of you. He will be shy, turn away and may be even run away from you. If it’s your child, or your relatives or close friends this will not be a problem of course…

But they move very fast! Faster than you can zoom and frame the picture, and very often faster than autofocus of your camera. This makes photographing them really tricky. If you aren’t used to that you will need to try again and again… and then child will get tired and bored.

If child isn’t afraid of photographer; and if child isn’t moving very fast; and if child isn’t asleep it means that child is trying to grab your camera 🙂 Or at least leave his fingerprints on your lens 🙂

Vassily Vassily
Vassily Vassily
Vassily Vassily

There is no one magic solution to these issues, but there are a few basic things that can help:

  • If child doesn’t know you, take some time without camera for child to get used to you;
  • To keep child at one place try to use a toy, or place on a chair or on rocking-horse;
  • To detract child from you/camera ask somebody else to call the child or to play with him.

Remark: pictures above are snapshots of my son. They aren’t perfect but they illustrate both the issues and possible solutions.

Remark 2: I used the words ‘he’ and ‘him’ not just meaning boys. Using male pronouns is the norm of English when speaking about unknown person (although politicians and managers often say ‘him or her’ these days trying to please everybody)

Remark 3: Apologies for being pedantic and boring 🙂

Stockxpert conference in Moscow

http://www.stockxpert.com/events/moscow/en/index.html

This is just a short note about the event. The full article is published in Microstock Diaries.

Stockxpert conference was attended by ~150 Russian-speaking visitors from Russia and other countries (I noticed people from Estonia and from Ukraine, but there might have been others).

Besides two main invited guests – Ron Chapple and Lev Dolgachov – Jupiter’s own team included Patty Vargas (Senior Director of content in Jupiter), Steve Kapsinow (community Xpert in SPX), Stockxpert founder Peter Hamza and a few other people.
Lev, Steve, Ron
Left to right: Lev, Steve and Ron

Ron and Lev remained the main speakers through most of the day. In the beginning, Ron was speaking about ‘Creativity & Business’.
Ron speaking
Ron’s presentation was covering various topics. Ron was speaking about growing stock market and new markets created by new technologies. On photography side Ron was discussing that clients want new ideas and that copying successful pictures isn’t a good idea.

Then Ron shared his 5 ideas for success in stock photography business.

After Ron’s presentation a quick slide-show of his own favorite pictures was shown and then Ron has answered several questions about photography, about working with model and about model releases.

Lev DolgachovThe day continued with Lev’s presentation in Russian. Lev has shared his perspective on microstock business and it’s near future. Lev elaborated on constantly changing environment that forces every stock photographer to keep up with the pace. One of his other focus points was to do what you like and not force yourself doing something you aren’t interested.

The lunch was followed by Ron and Lev workshops. Ron has shown how to use natural light, and Lev was speaking about studio work.
Ron working with model Ron working with model
Ron showing how to work with model using natural light

At the end of the official part, Jupiter and Stockexpert perspective was shared and some questions answered.

You can find more details (including all main points from Ron’s and from Lev’s speeches and main topics covered by Jupiter) in the full article in Microstock Diaries.

I enjoyed the day, and I saw that most other participants enjoyed it too. It seems that Jupiter/SXP team was also satisfied with the outcome. One item that was particularly interesting for me was too see that Jupiter looks at SXP as integral part of greater corporation and is already trying to get it to the right place – something we don’t see happening with Getty/iStock neither with Corbis/Snapvillage.

Peter Hamza
Peter Hamza – stockxpert founder

The Stockxpert conference is over and I will write a report about it in a few days.

The day after the conference we went around Moscow with Ron Chapple. Ron is a very successfull stock photographer. He has about 35 years of photography experience, he is doing stock photography for over 20 years, and doing very well on microstock with 14 months experience so far.
Ron shoots St.Basil Cathedral

It was a great day. We started early to catch the good light and to avoid too many tourists. As I am a lazy person I would for sure not start so early on my own. I would have missed the opportunity of making pictures in wonderful early morning light that we got. The picture above is St. Basil Cathedral – and the Red Square is just on the opposite side of the Cathedral.

The picture below shows Ron in front of the former KGB building.

Ron in front of former KGB building

As we started at 6 am and stayed on our feet up until 3 pm we got tired and decided to stop. That allowed me to catch one of the workshops that was organized by Russian photographers. They used the opportunity of many Stockxpert contributors being in Moscow for the weekend and organized few events on Sunday – and I catched the last one. The workshop was about studio light and work with model. It was led by photographer Vlad Gansovsky and one of his models. Vlad is Russian nude and stock photographer (http://vladgans.ru, http://www.surart.ru, http://www.stockxpert.com/browse.phtml?f=profile&l=najin). Workshop was very interactive, and I learned quite a bit (and I truly enjoyed it).

Stockxpert contributor conference

Stockxpert agency organizes contributor conference this Saturday in Moscow, Russia. I will be attending it and I will share my experience in this blog.

I am particularly interested to talk to Ron Chapple who is long time professional photographer, veteran of traditional photo stock and also successful in microstock. The other items of the agenda also look interesting.


iStock was the first microstock agency that started organizing events for it’s contributors on a regular basis – but iStock is community driven so it was quite natural move. The next was LuckyOliver but that startup company didn’t succeed and is being closed down now. Other agencies didn’t organize anything similar so far, so we can consider Stockxpert being the second (although it is doing it very different comparing with iStock).

Photo exhibition in Leuven

I am a member of Viewfinders photography club. Our club had got an opportunity to present the members work in the “Wentelsteen” culture-café, just off the “Vismarkt” in the heart of Leuven.

The location is the ground floor of a very old building, once part of the university, where Vesalius and Justus Lipsius gave lessons. The building is restored but it has retained a lot of atmosphere, which seems to ooze from every sagging wooden beam and crack in the plasterwork. Great place for a quiet drink, or a meal, or just to admire the work of the Viewfinders 🙂

Six of my own pictures are exhibited there. All pictures are for sale – framed or unframed.

The exhibition runs from January 5th, 2008 to February 2nd (though we’ll be taking down on that day). It is open every day except Mondays, from 11h or 14h on Sundays and bank holidays.

The address is: Cultuurcafé Wentelsteen,
Busleydengang 6D (Vismarkt) 3000 Leuven.

P.S.: The exhibition was put on a short notice and I didn’t have time to make photos of the place. Will try to make some later and post here in the blog.