iStock is the source for the best stock photos, illustrations, video and audio. Whatever the subject, theme, place, emotion, type of person or composition you need – you know you can find incredible materials that fit perfectly into your latest project like the last piece of the puzzle.
What you might not know is that behind each and every one of those images is a story: a tale of how it was shot or composed, of what sparked the idea in the creator's mind.
Here we've brought together the stories behind 10 of our favourite iStock photos and illustrations for 2016 – which are on-trend for this year and beyond: authentic, warm, full of love, and evoking both the natural world and human achievement.
Read on to see these images and be inspired by their creation.
Juri Pozzi knows how to make himself invisible. “Often when I’m taking a picture people don’t even notice me, and that’s what I like,” the iStock by Getty Images photographer said recently from his home in Florence, Italy. “It’s the only way to take very natural, candid pictures.”
The intimate moments he captured between two women in a park is one great example. It’s unpretentious and real – two characteristics which make it a natural choice for brands to use in advertising. In fact, a major online auction company chose this image for its Valentine’s Day campaign, and no doubt its authenticity was why.
But Pozzi did not know these women when he photographed them. So how did he get such natural-looking shots?
“I took that picture very close to where I live,” Pozzi said. “There was a group of young people having fun in the park, and I asked them if I could take some pictures.” To Pozzi’s surprise, the group was open to the idea.
“It’s not always that easy. Often people don’t want someone standing in front of them taking pictures,” he said. “So I use a very small camera. This way there is not a big object between me and the subject, and the subjects don’t feel under attack.”
As he often does, Pozzi spent time building a rapport with his subjects. Eventually, they began to think of him more as a friend than a photographer. “I tried to get to know them,” he said. “Then, while we spoke, I took a few pictures.”
Pozzi stayed with the friends until the sun began to set, talking and photographing. That’s when he caught these moments between two of the women in the group.
Pozzi hopes images like this one will help break down stereotypes. “When I took this picture, I wasn’t thinking, ‘Is this homosexual love or heterosexual love?’" he said. "I think love is just love."
“Everyone has a world only they know about,” says illustrator Bulent Gultek said. “My desire is to share the scenes and ideas that exist within my head.”
The Istanbul-based illustrator likes to reimagine life and depict it in mystical, inventive ways. While his drawings may not be based in reality, they all carry an underlying message that reflects his opinions of the real world, like in this winter fantasy.
“The simple lines and soft colours create a calming atmosphere,” he said. “But there is still an undertone that illustrates the vulnerability of nature.”
Miroslav Georgijevic has taken some chances in life. In addition to the mast -- the story of a magnificent day on the Adriatic Sea he recounted recently from his home in Serbia -- the iStock by Getty Images photographer’s career was also built on a fair amount of risk taking.
So he decided to get a job selling computer parts simply so he could afford a camera. And he made a deal with his new boss: “Buy me a camera and you can give me less money for the next six months,” Georgijevic said.
After going through many camera models and making the bold decision to quit his job to pursue photography, Georgijevic remembers being on vacation with his wife and some friends, when he noticed the radar on the top of the mast.
“So I asked our skipper, ‘How do you fix that when it’s broken?’” Georgijevic said. “And he told me, ‘We have a system with a rope, and we have a few guys who pull the ropes.’ And I said, ‘Perfect! I want to go up.’ And he said it was dangerous. So I begged him for a few hours, and finally, he agreed.”
Georgijevic said all he could think up there was how amazing it was.
“So I started making shots,” he said. “And I asked my friends and the crew to go into the water, to swim, to do this and that. And we made a few great pictures and videos. I was so excited with those pictures. Because it was a really unique and amazing day.”
It’s this spirit that carries Georgijevic through work and through life:
“I always think that when you think positive, when you do what you love, at some point your dream will come true.”
“We create the surroundings we live in,” the Moscow-based photographer said. “If you want to be happy, make your surroundings happy. If you want to do something, then make it happen.”
Filipchuck followed his own advice when he suddenly had the idea to photograph a man playing piano in the middle of the woods. Instead of dwelling on the obvious challenges, he found a way to make it work.
“A group of us went into the countryside, had a lovely picnic and enjoyed the music. It was one of the most wonderful days of my life,” Filipchuk said. “I tried to capture the sound as much as I could.”
Some people inherit family heirlooms, but Forest Woodward’s family passed along something that has become even more important to him: an appreciation for nature.
“My family has an intrinsic connection to nature. Growing up in North Carolina, I spent my time exploring, camping, hiking and canoeing,” he said. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how important being in nature is for my happiness, for my soul and also for my creative process. Nature’s inspiring to me.”
As an adult, the iStock by Getty Images photographer and videographer still considers nature his playground. He travels the world exploring places like Patagonia, Montana and South Africa, capturing their spectacular, rugged terrains.
“I draw a lot of inspiration from big landscapes, especially the American West. The more remote and wild, the better,” Forest said. “When you get a taste of wild places you get a craving to keep pursuing the unbeaten path.”
Forest Woodward's photography brings out the passion inherent in stunning landscapes and bold individuals.
"I hope my photos inspire others to explore—to get out of their comfort zone and explore landscapes and cultures that are different from theirs."
Daniel Barnes has a unique perspective of the world – literally.
As a commercial helicopter pilot he gets to see things from a point of view most people rarely get the privilege to see. So Barnes, who is also an iStock by Getty Images photographer, saw an opportunity to combine his two professions and share this special outlook with others.
“The aerial perspective is pretty high impact. It’s not a view that many people get to enjoy or really ever see,” Barnes said. “One of my favourite things is showing people something they aren’t privy to in their everyday lives.”
While the end results are stunning, the process of capturing these images from above is no easy feat.
“There’s always challenges in the air. Until you’re up there and shooting, you don’t know if it’s actually going to work,” he said. “You have a ton of things to consider — how high or low you want to be, the weather conditions, the quality of light — you have to make quick decisions to optimise your time in the air.”
With a recent photo he took of a container ship, Barnes had his fair share of difficulties trying to align the moving ship with the moving helicopter. But, he was finally able to get into the optimal shooting position to create a beautiful, powerful image
“Photographing from the air puts life in perspective,” Barnes said. “It makes you realise how big these ships are and how small we are in the world.”
Whether she's photographing her city of Budapest or highlighting the strength of women, photographer Kondoros Éva Katalin skillfully extracts the beauty from even the most ordinary moments.
“As a lifestyle photographer, I couldn’t have asked for a better city to live in. Gorgeous streets and markets, famous thermal baths, delicious food and interesting people make this a place to remember,” she said. “Poetically composed situations are constantly drifting before me. I often wish I could capture these moments simply by blinking my eyes.”
In addition to her beautiful city, Éva finds inspiration in the loving, strong women in her life.
“My mum constantly shows how deep and selfless love can be,” Éva said. “Apart from her, I am constantly motivated by former teachers, friends, contemporary writers, athletes and businesswomen who prove to me every day that they are striving to do their best.
"The world is full of magical moments – you just have to keep your eyes peeled for them."
In the vein of some of the greatest names in photography, Kondoros Éva Katalin uses her lifestyle photography to bring out the beauty found in life's most everyday moments.
"When I'm photographing, everything else ceases to exist besides the models, the light and the viewfinder."
This photo of Yosemite National Park in California by Zodebala comes with a powerful heritage. When a relatively unknown photographer, Carleton E Watkins, first captured the majesty of Yosemite in 1861, little did he know that those images would inspire President Abraham Lincoln to change the course of environmental history forever – but they did.
“Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant bill on June 30, 1864, and then less than a year later he was assassinated – so he more than likely never would have seen Yosemite on his own," Kari Cobb, public affairs specialist for Yosemite National Park said. "Without those photographs, who knows how long it would have been before Yosemite was actually a protected area. The importance of photography for the protection of Yosemite certainly cannot be understated.”
Matthew Butson, vice president at Getty Images Archive, agrees.
"In this case, Carleton E. Watkins had a profound effect not only on a president but on the environmental history of a nation," he said.
Learn more in this video, in which Butson takes us deep into the vaults where these iconic pictures are kept and explains the power of photography to change the world.