CACTUS Studio on Balancing Creative Freedom and Client Needs


June 4, 2019

Graphic design, art direction, photography—CactuSoup has been doing all this and more for businesses and institutions for about a decade. Cofounders Francesca Basile and Blai Baules also spend about half their time creating stock photography for Stocksy (an art-forward stock photography and video footage agency), making colorful graphic photo illustrations that tell a story in a single image under the name of CACTUS Studio.

A few weeks ago, Francesca and Blai called me from their studio in Lleida, Spain, to talk about their creative process and their respective backgrounds: Blai started in the world of graffiti before studying photography and multimedia. Francesca is Italian, studied graphic design and fine arts in Milan, and traveled to Barcelona to work on her final thesis when she met Blai. Around a decade ago, they decided to combine their skill sets to make interesting work together as CactuSoup.

Tell me about Cactus Studio. What kind of work do you do?

We do visual communication. We work with ideas and offer visual solutions to clients, companies, and entities. And we also create stock photography. We are not only photographers, we also integrate illustration and mixed media in our images. We like to put different disciplines and techniques to use in the service of ideas.

Do you do more than create stock photography?

We dedicate our time to many different things. We love being in a continuous learning process and in search of inspiration and new ideas. The thing we like most is to create images so we combine that with our daily life. We do that in our studio, while we travel with our van, or while we watch the stars… CACTUS Studio is our username on Stocksy. CactuSoup is the name of our creative studio.

Why do you create stock photography and art?

Why not? You are free to do what you want at all times. On a creative level it is very interesting for us. It gives us the opportunity to experiment and build new things. Many of our works have been born experimentally. Later they’re adapted and developed as projects for clients.

What kind of creative freedom do you have?

For us the personal works are very important. We like to give ourselves a specific amount of time to have a lot of freedom, without worrying that what we do will have an immediate economic benefit. Thanks to Stocksy we can follow this path.

Obviously when you work for clients you are subject to some rules, briefings, delivery times. Even so, we like to have control of the whole process from idea to execution and final application. These are the projects we are most happy with.

How does being a stock photographer benefit your business?

The benefits are multiple. You’re part of an incredible community of talented photographers. You grow as a professional. You’re up-to-date with the latest trends. Of course, it also has an economic benefit that allows you to continue doing projects.

Walk us through your process. How do you actually work?

We always have notebooks with us to write down intuitions, things that we like and are attracted to. And then we use tools to organize ideas and to plan our work, like apps, sketchbooks, whiteboards, and calendars with task lists.

The ideas are born as drawings and notes. We assign priorities and make a list of all the previous work and materials that we need to make the photo session. Then we edit the images and process them.

The time we dedicate to each shoot depends on the complexity of the project. It can vary a lot, from one shoot in a week to one shoot in a day.

Talk about the quality of your work.

The processing of the final photographs is very important, taking care of every last detail. We spend a lot of time reviewing the quality of our images. It’s important for us to transmit ideas in a powerful way. The composition must work to communicate what we want it to.

What sets your work apart from other stock photography?

We think what makes our work different from other photographers’ is the combination of illustration with photography. We use photography as a means to communicate ideas with shapes and colors.

Why use Stocksy and sell your work instead of some other stock photography service?

Close to 50% of our time is spent working with Stocksy. We love being part of this community of talented artists. We like that it is cooperative, and the way they treat contributors is excellent. The editors always help us and improve our work. Working with Stocksy has made us grow in many aspects of our profession. It also makes our process for creating and developing new ideas possible and economically viable.

What has been your favorite shoot?

Always the last work is our favorite!


Produced by Studio Sixtysix
Words by Shay Maunz
Photos by Cactus Studio, courtesy of Stocksy

Studio Sixtysix is the in-house creative agency to Sixtysix magazine. Studio Sixtysix stories are conceived, produced, and edited by Studio Sixtysix.

A magazine cover