Photography News issue 20

12

Profile

INTERVIEW

There’s a revolution happening in the world of stock photography, which claims to offer a much fairer deal to photographers. We spoke to Picfair founder, Benji Lanyado, to find out what’s behind this brave new landscape Benji Lanyado

content space with editorial buyers. If the price is competitive, there will always be buyers.

BIOGRAPHY

Many photographers won’t know the value of their images – can you give pricing assistance? We’re going to do a lot more on guiding first-time sellers. We don’t want them to undersell images, but we don’t want them to price themselves out of the market. A good guide is to upload the first batch at £10 each (for a single-use licence), then see how it goes. Eventually we want to offer a way to let the market control the price. How many images do you need to contribute to stand a good chance of making money? As long as you upload more than ten, the number doesn’t matter – it’s image quality that matters. Our search algorithm prefers photographers who have a lot of stars (our in-house editorial pick), social media links and a lot of page views. It’s also important to tag images as diligently as possible. As the value of stock has dropped, how would you encourage photographers that stock is a worthwhile investment of their time? While the earnings of early adopters to stock and average image prices have dropped, money being spent on images has massively increased. It’s just being distributed to a much larger pool of photographers as there are more fit-for-market images out there. It might be more difficult to become a full-time stock photographer, but it’s easy for a semi-pro or freelance photographer to make a great side income from stock photography. What sells best? While traditional images of objects on white backgrounds always have a market, we see more and more sales of ‘alternative stock’ – images shot with the necessary crispness and focus, but telling alternative stories: a model who isn’t thin, shiny and traditionally beautiful; vistas with grungy filters rather than Disney colours. Overall though, if it’s a well-defined shot, there’s a market for it. Are there any images/photographers you’re looking to attract? We’re increasing our library – so photographers with big collections! But in terms of scope, we want everyone from incredibly niche medical stock photographers to zeitgeisty Instagrammers! How do you encourage people to submit work to you and not the Big Boys of stock? For the photographer, the major agencies have morphed into margin-hungry monsters, who’ve forgotten about the people who are providing their goods. The image industry has gotten progressively worse for photographers, but Picfair puts them back in control.

Years in the photo industry: Four Current location: East London Last picture taken: Picfair’s new office Hobbies: I’m a football addict with a serious West Ham problem When youwere younger, what did you want to bewhen you grewup? An air hostess, a pilot, a footballer then a writer Dogs or cats? Dogs. They understand me Toast or cereal? Toast Email or phone call? Neither. Slack or WhatsApp How did Picfair come about? I worked as a travel writer and editor and was amazed how difficult it was to find and license non-professional images. I looked into how the industry worked and couldn’t believe how old- school agencies were: excluding amateurs, fixing prices and taking a vast majority of royalties – an average of 74%! This outdated business model serves neither buyers or photographers. Airbnb is an inspiration – before them, thousands of holiday rental agencies constricted supply and took the majority of the money. The image industry is the same. It seemed an amazing opportunity to apply a new business model to image licensing. So I quit my job, learned how to code and then released a prototype of Picfair in late 2013. In a few months there were over 10,000 images by amateur and pro photographers in 20 countries. We had our first front-page image during the storms of January 2014. It very quickly became clear that this wasn’t a bad idea and there was an appetite from both sides of the market. What’s so different about Picfair compared with the more established stock agencies? We’re alternative – Shutterstock we ain’t! By opening our platform to anyone, we attracted a new wave of pro-amateur photographers who’ve been excluded from image licensing for years. We’re better value as our prices are dictated by the market, not a stock agency executive. The photographer is at the heart of what we do – we let them set their own prices, change them whenever they want and get 100% of the fee when an image sells (we add a 20% commission on top). It’s also simple to use – within three clicks of opening Picfair, you could have images for sale! How do you compete with free imagery? We don’t. People who want free images find free images – they don’t make this a $6bn industry. We’re interested in the growing commercial

Can you compete with the likes of Getty/Alamy as far as image buyers are concerned? Our proposition to photographers is dramatically different from Getty or Shutterstock and we’re gradually offering similar propositions to buyers. With no agency overheads or executives fixing prices, we can offer buyers game-changing value. We also offer access to a new generation of image makers that agencies have excluded for years. We’re going to dramatically simplify the way images are licensed. The current royalty free and rights managed status quo is an outdated quagmire – Getty has 320,000 ways to license a single image. This is mad, and nobody wants it. We want to get rid of royalty free altogether and offer buyers what they want – simplicity. We’re only just getting started on this, stay tuned! It’s a combination of human and algorithmic filtering; every image is viewed and sorted by a picture editor. We monitor view counts, sales, social referral and page dwell, all of which is fed to our search algorithm. Every photographer and image has an algorithmic score that changes daily. Ultimately, our aim is to algorithmically differentiate the wheat from the chaff. How do you compete with Flickr and 500pix, or editors contacting photographers directly? We can’t stop direct contact, but mostly we actually experience this in reverse – buyers contact a photographer and are referred to their Picfair profile. Negotiating rates/payment is a hassle – we handle payment and licensing so they can concentrate on photography. We don’t see Flickr and 500px as direct competitors. Where do you see Picfair in five years’ time? I want us to have dramatically changed online image licensing and have made millions of pounds for our photographers in the process! How do you maintain the quality of images – is there a vetting process?

The image industry has gotten progressively worse for photographers, but Picfair puts themback in control

π To find out more, go to www.picfair.com.

Photography News | Issue 20

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