The journey of a photographer usually starts with a spark of interest, and for Mike Turner, it was when he was a musician in an up-and-coming band in the 1990s. He borrowed an old Pentax camera from his brother and started taking photos of his band. The band used his photos for their debut album, and one of them was used on the cover of the Sunday Times magazine, the biggest newspaper in South Africa. This was the moment that ignited the photography fire in him. The rest, as they say, is history— and $6,500+ sales generated on Wirestock.
He started offering photography services to other up-and-coming bands and was able to leverage it to generate a substantial side income. After the .com crash in 1999/2000, however, many music venues closed, and people didn't go out to watch bands much anymore, causing his band to eventually break up. With an urge for a fresh start, Turner decided to move to London and take up photography-related work full-time. He worked for various labs, all the while honing his skillset.
In 2008, he moved back to South Africa to work with his brother, who had a booming freelance photography business working mostly in corporate-related fields—doing events, PR, professional portraits, etc. He started picking up his own corporate clients, one of which became Entrepreneur Magazine.
Shooting up-and-coming and established entrepreneurs for the magazine gave him exposure to many new and varied client opportunities. It also got him in the front door to most of the top PR firms in South Africa, which really launched his career - from shooting at Platinum mines, food festivals, sporting events, and even to Ethiopia for Bono’s charity ONE Campaign.
In comes stock photography
Having a massive archive of images, it was only logical for Turner to dabble in the stock image world. Now, when he’s shooting specifically for his stock portfolio, he usually looks no further than his surroundings. If he goes on a hike in the local mountains, or a walk through the city, he takes his camera and captures things of interest right as he’s going along. A lot of his macro images were shot using a 100mm lens—usually just weird and interesting things around his house, like circuit boards, chess pieces, and other random trinkets.
Cameras, cameras, cameras
Turner carries Canon 5D mk4 and Canon 5D mk3 as backup; Canon 24-105mm f4 is his go-to lens for any situation, but his favorite lens is his Canon 70-200mm f2,8. He also carries two prime lenses - Canon 100mm f2.8 for Macro work, and Canon 50mm f1,8.
Turner’s impressive run on Wirestock
Turner was introduced to Wirestock by a photographer friend. Having already used all the primary platforms since early 2018, Turner liked the idea of only having to upload once rather than multiple times across all platforms each time he had a batch of images. He also appreciated the free keywording service at the time.
When it comes to submissions, Turner's selection process usually involves choosing images that tell a story at first glance or that are emotive. He usually only picks the best 20% of images in a batch for uploading the first time around and then peppers in the "B roll" images later on over an extended time frame. Turner’s editing process involves adding or adjusting color saturation to images for high impact and running his images through Photoshop to ensure they are of the highest quality.
Turner's top-selling images cover a wide range of subjects, including color festivals, mine sites, and editorial people content. He doesn't necessarily shoot with stock image sales in mind but instead works with what he already has. When he shoots specifically for his stock portfolio, he usually leans into his surroundings as a true testament to authenticity.