Interviewing Tom Swinnen: A hobby photographer who achieved more than 100 million views on his images.

in LeoFinance2 months ago
What does a hobby photographer feel when their photos are viewed more than 100 million times and get their images featured in websites like amazon.com? How was this achieved and what's next? Read the interview to find out!

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Photography by Tom Swinnen on pexels


It was a few days after I wrote my 6+1 reasons why I share my images on pexels when I was accepted to Pexels Photography School and joined the Pexels Community on Facebook.
For you who may not know, "Pexels is a free stock photo and video website and app that helps designers, bloggers, and everyone who is looking for visuals to find great photos and videos that can be downloaded and used for free." Similar websites are pixabay, unsplash etc

I was already very excited about my photo views and suddenly I see a post by someone celebrating 100 million views to their images!1 I was very happy to see that, indeed so thrilled that I immediately asked "May I interview you?" And guess what? Tom answered yes!

It felt really rewarding that I could explore into someone's personal achievement! To learn, to be inspired, but also to inspire anyone who reads it. Everybody needs small sips of motivation. Sharing ideas is what has makes this world go round. Let's share good, happy and inspiring content and maybe step by step, we will have the ability to change both ourselves and the world.

Let's start this interview, shall we?


Dear Tom,
First of all congratulations for your Pexels achievements (more than 100 Million views of your photos) and thank you for giving me the opportunity to ask you a few questions!

A: Thank you for having me for this interview, I appreciate it!

Q: Would you like to tell us a few things about you? Where you come from, what your occupation and interests are?
A: I was born in 1987 (so 33 years old) and raised in Belgium, in the Dutch speaking part near the Dutch border. So near in fact, that I now work in The Netherlands. During the day I am a junior art director/graphic designer. After hours I spend most of my time surrounded by music. Concerts, playing music myself or listening to new releases. In the weekends I've got my hands in the dirt in our garden, or my feet in the mud out hiking somewhere.


Q: When did you start taking photographs? Tell us the beginning of it all.
A: It all started in 2002 with my Canon Powershot A40 with a whopping 2,0MP resolution and 7,5x optical zoom. I'd take my bike and ride around my home town just taking photographs of almost anything actually. I still have some of those photos. You really don't want to see those. I used to put them on DeviantArt. It seems like a century ago now.


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Photo by Tom Swinnen from Pexels

Q: What equipment do you use to take photographs and what are your favorite photo subjects?
A: 18 years later I still use a Canon! Talk about brand loyalty. Not a Powershot anymore though. My current one is a EOS 200D with 3 lenses. The EF 50 mm F/1.8 STM for portraits, the EF-S 55-250 mm f/4-5.6 for macros/animals/plants and the EF-S 10-18 mm f/4.5-5.6 for landscapes. My favorite subject is still nature in all its aspects but I've been doing more and more portraits recently (partly because I'm also the back-up photographer at my work, so I need to practice).


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Photo by Tom Swinnen

Q: When did you join Pexels, how did you decide it and how is your experience with Pexels so far?
A: I joined in 2017 but I had known the platform long before that. As a designer I was always a big fan of the style being used on Pexels. Especially back then paid stock photography always felt so fake and over-edited. So after a few years of only using the photos, I thought it was time to finally give something back to the Pexels community. I still think it's a lovely concept that has changed the way we use photos on the web.


Q: Are you also on other photo-platforms?
A: Yes, I'm also on Unsplash. But since I feel that the two platforms are a bit different with regards to style, I also upload different content to both.


Q: What were your expectations when you joined Pexels? Have they been fulfilled?
A: I don't think I really had expectations when I joined. That I'd help other designers with useful photographs, maybe? And seeing my photos pop up everywhere has quite fulfilled that expectation.


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Image by Tom on Pexels

Q: With over 100 million views, what does it mean as a photographer contributor? Do you receive many messages? Do you receive donations?
A: I do quite regularly get messages and small donations. I'm always completely perplexed when someone chooses to donate. It warms my heart. I always reply to people that send messages or donations and give them access to a password-protected link where they can download some more of my photographs. Just as a little thank you. A little side note: all my donations go to several Patreon creators I support, so the money is used to support other creatives.


Q: Do you have any idea about who is using your images? I have seen that some of your images have been featured by amazon, by fastcompany and more remarkable companies!
It is worth to mention that some of Tom's images have been featured in websites like amazon, dailymail.co.uk and more.2
A: I do sometimes perform a reverse image search on Google for some of my pictures, just to see where they end up. I've seen some lovely things being done with them by some great designers. And some really silly things as well and that's fine too.


Q: What are your future plans? Would you leave your dayjob to follow photography?
A: I was planning on shooting and releasing a book in 2020 about our local holloways. These natural structures intrigue me and are an intensely photogenic subject. But due to COVID related lockdowns that plan has shifted to 2021. Apart from that my dayjob provides me with enough opportunities to practice photography regularly that I see no reason to change.


Q: Are you thinking / Would you consider other ways of monetizing your photography? (Sell it or use rewarding websites to get paid for your contributions?)
A: Not really. I'm a big fan of community driven projects and I don't feel that my photographs should be paid for. It's only a hobby for me after all. I do appreciate donations because I can use them to support other creators.


Q: Has the 'Pexel's Hero' title change your contribution images? Are you now more picky about which images to upload?
A: It has. The Pexels Hero badge for me feels like I have a certain standard to uphold. Like a seal of quality of sorts. I wear the button and the sticker proudly on my backpack as well.


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Image by Tom Swinnen on Pexels

Q: What would you advise a young photographer, or someone who is just starting photography as a hobby?
A: Get yourself a cheap camera that has a good quality built-in lens and a manual mode. And learn the ropes using that. Go through the settings. Challenge yourself to squeeze every last drop out of that cheap camera. Don't go out spending hundreds of euros on dSLRs and lenses thinking this will make you a photographer. It won't. I've seen gorgeous photos made with point-and-click cameras or smartphones.


Q: Where can someone find you, other than Pexels?
A: I'm on Instagram as Shottrotter but also post more garden & plant related pictures on Alderwoodgarden. Apart from that you can find me on Unsplash and there are some (older) galleries on my own website.


Thank you very much for your time Tom : ) I wish you the best, first and above all to be healthy and happy, as you follow your passion!

Katerina Ramm

What about you? Do you have any questions for Tom? If yes, please comment here so that I can gather everything and come back with a Volume 2 interview :) Or, better yet - feel free to connect with him and reach out with your questions!


If you are a photographer reading this, I would like to let you know that there are photographers' communities also on the hive blockchain! You can join hive and share your images there too! This is something you can do in addition with your rest photo-sharing in other platforms. There is the Photography Lovers Community and also a Hive Stock Images Community, where many artists who love photography get to share their art and be rewarded both in showcasing their work but also in receiving crytocurrency for it.


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Who am I?

I am Katerina from Crete, Greece. An enthusiastic content creator with a passion for photography. Interested in the blockchain technology, in new social media platforms and in trying to educate new users who wish to explore the blockchain social media world and its possibilities!

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Eishh that's a lot of views and reach. To imagine my writings or blog having a 100million views will be amazing! I can't even fathom the load of emotions I will feel. What about you? How will you feel about having 100million views in your blog?

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Hi, thanks for coming by & for reading!

It must be an amazing feeling to know that your content is viewed and valued :) After all, that's the whole point in creating and sharing..
Regarding your question

How will you feel about having 100million views in your blog?

Well, we don't really know how many views we have, do we?
That would be an awesome feature, to be able to see how many views our links had or how many clicks we generated :) Websites such as Publish0x or medium provide some basic statistics for their bloggers.

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@katerinaramm, cool interview! As Tom gives back to the creative community, shall we give him an account in here? Just for him to share a few stories in the photography and travel community?

Let me know if you need credits or an account. :)

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I think that it would be awesome! I have shared this link with him so he will be able to check the comments from our community :) I will ask him when he gets back to me!

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Great! It would be good for both, Tom gets introduced into the creative crypto world and this blockchain gets an artist with a lot of followers that can subscribe and vote him in here. Tom than can curate other artists and so on!

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Such an elaborate interview which I enjoyed reading since I'm a hobbyist in the world of photography. In the whole interview, there's a particular answer which I feel really compelled is when he said:

Get yourself a cheap camera that has a good quality built-in lens and a manual mode. And learn the ropes using that. Go through the settings. Challenge yourself to squeeze every last drop out of that cheap camera. Don't go out spending hundreds of euros on dSLRs and lenses thinking this will make you a photographer. It won't. I've seen gorgeous photos made with point-and-click cameras or smartphones.

I totally agree with what he said here because the camera doesn't guarantee an incredible result for anyone's photography.

Anyway, thanks for sharing this interview.

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Thank you. I, too enjoyed reading it and making a blog post out of it (a looot).
I believe that we always have something new to learn, I am happy to know that there are 'take aways' from this interview. I bet Tom will be happy to know too!

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I think Tom has every right to open that champaign after touching 100 millions views lol! He sounds like an awesome person to hang out too!

Great interview @Katerinaramm and I didn't know you were taking photography lessons on Pexel. Keep chasing what you love and do it with passion like always ;)

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That was an inspiring interview and I loved the fact that he's seen great photos even with a smartphone. Word of the day: "holloways" which I had to Google and which gave me a Hobbit-like feeling, imagining him taking some well-worn route to a beautiful destination...

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except for the fact that he got 100mil views which is simply amazing, he seems like a humble guy. With the prestige, he has now he could earn a lot of money but instead he doesn't care that much but loves photography and community. He even supports other creators with his donations!

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