by Sara Guerrini, senior photo editor of Yourpictureditor
In the early 2000s, the world of stock photography was still dazed by the birth of the Royalty Free license. This first remarkable revolution in the industry inevitably led to creative flattening in the image production: low cost, non-exclusive photography to meet the needs of small businesses and especially the web. Micro-stock and the $1 images had not yet been invented.
It is in those years that some brave photo agencies decided to challenge the market by offering high-end photography to stock image buyers. Plainpicture, a picture library based in Hamburg (Germany) has certainly been one of this revolution’s initiators by offering, since its foundation, exclusive content, perfectly edited images and, equally as important, quality. Astrid Herrmann, plainpicture’s Marketing Director, tells YP their story and how, by inventing a new license (RS – Rights Simplified), they are carrying on their revolution in the stock photo industry.
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When and how did Planpicture start?
Plainpicture started at the beginnning of 2001 with the idea of representing strong, authentic imagery. At that time the photo industry was dominated by “artificial” people photography and very stocky images. Magazines and advertising campaigns were full of this type of imagery. Our intention was to offer an alternative to this flood of unnatural and frankly, quite boring photography.
We started with a handful of photographers and a small collection of images, showing people in their personal environment and everyday life. This was long before the general authentic image trends started and the keyword of “Real Life Photography” was established.
What type of buyers/users are your most loyal ones?
Plainpicture customers are from different media fields like advertising, corporate, editorial & book publishing. “Rauschen”, our collection for design & bookcovers established itself as a very stable pillar of our portfolio. Plainpicture images are published regularely on magazines covers and advertising campaigns, used for billboards & posters spread over the city, which is still a pleasure for us to see.
Instagram (or its algorithm) is dictating creativity guidelines in terms of composition, colours and also feelings. Has this influenced your production? How are you briefing your photographers?
The first changes in photographic styles were caused by mobile phones, with the possibility to take pictures with mobiles even before Instagram was created. Even though the technology wasn’t advanced at all at that time – with very low resolution images – this was the very beginning of big aesthetic changes in the photographic field.
The influence of Instagram and social networks in general have required different ways of dealing with photography, visually as well as technically, and in terms of content too.
The communication with photographers changed – some of them are only reachable through social networks. They sometimes don’t even have a website anymore. However Instagram is one of the most effective tools for us to research, perform and to communicate. Beside the intention to fill up topic (content) gaps in the plainpicture collection we always keep our eyes open for new photography styles and image trends. This helps us build the guidelines that we include to every photographer briefing.
Plainpicture has invented the Rights Simplified license. A license that “combines exclusive righs” (Rights Managed) with “maximum freedom of image use” (Royalty free). Could you simplify to a new generation of photography buyers what this means?
We created the Rights Simplified (RS) license model which is new in the industry to answer customer needs. plainpicture RS is supposed to match the requirement for quick and simple licensing as well as the wish from clients for unique / unseen imagery. The traditional types of licenses RM & RF could only accomplish one of these criteria. RS licensing doesn’t require any specification of media-type, placement, size or print-run which means maximum freedom of image use. The license fee depends only on the duration (1, 3, 5 years or unlimited) and on distribution territory. RS images are automatically delivered in the highest file size. Exclusivity is also available. With these options plainpicture Rights Simplified combines the advantages of RM and RF licensing, giving the client maximum flexibilty whilst using exclusive, high quality photography.
What would you say to a photographer, who would like to start career in stock photography?
The stock industry has become a huge market place of arbitrary, replaceable images. Due to the excessive growth of image-production as well as price dumping over recent years, the value of photography has dropped step by step. Not only financially but also content and quality wise. Every topic has been shot already. That’s why photographers would not be well advised to shoot more and more (useless) pictures. More than ever it’s essential for a photographer to find and develop his or her own individual image style – and possibly come to plainpicture. We are keen on new, exceptional content and individual photographic styles which stand out from the homogeneous pulp of images.
As a child did you have a dream job? And is your actual one close to that dream?
Dream job: Fine Artist.
Close to it: the enthusiasm for visual expression, aesthetic challenges and plenty of individual perceptions of the world.
Astrid Herrmann, born in Austria, living in Hamburg. Study of Art History, Study of Fine Art, Fine Artist, plainpicture Co-Founder / 2001, plainpicture Marketing Director.
Photo by plainpicture/Karoliina Norontaus