© ROBERT DALY FOR OJO IMAGES
Today we often see a lot of doom and gloom stories centered on stock photography income, but the stock photo agency OJO Images has a brighter outlook and a very positive story to tell in this industry. The photographers at OJO realized that if you get your business model right and produce great imagery for the stock image market, you can deliver a very decent return on investment. OJO Images got it right from the start: The market craves quality not quantity….killers not fillers.
Four years ago OJO Images was just a group of photographers having a beer and talking about an idea to form some kind of collaborative group to create stock imagery. They were all very experienced stock photographers and there was instant synergy among them. They banded together to become the six founding photographer partners of OJO Images: Rob Daly, Chris Newton, Justin Pumfrey, Martin Barraud, Matt Hind and Chris Ryan.
From the start, OJO’s company structure and creative ethos were of vital concern to the partners. “We didn’t want to be just another ‘me too’ collection in what some thought to be an already over subscribed market,” says contributing partner Ryan.
They needed a more holistic approach to create the variety and breadth their collection would need and began to get very excited about the potential dynamic of forming the agency as a co-operative. With this model, they could have the joy of having their own creative department and control, producers to make all the shoots happen and retouchers to polish and conform the images.
The founding partners invested equal amounts of images and start-up capital, which enabled them to form the collection in a very controlled way. They agreed to shoot different key areas of a much broader content road map and in this way avoided producing masses of overly similar content for a more tightly curated, balanced collection. And as a co-operative, the partners agreed to equally share all the royalty profits.
They also needed their own Web site and distribution network to take the collection to market. They needed to involve the best possible person to bring their expertise into play. With Jonathan Gibson, a Vice President of channel sales at Jupiter Images and over 20 years of industry experience, they found the best person possible and a perfect fit for the group. Gibson joined as a partner and under his guidance, OJO Images was created. Now they really could call themselves a final “magnificent seven” of partners.
OJO’s first batch of 6,000 Images went live to market on June 16th, 2007. Since that time, the collection has grown to over 20,000 images and the company has also grown to include 15 people. “I believe we represent some of the world’s best-selling stock photographers and images. This kudos enables us to secure a unique position at the very top end of the market. We are clearly providing the type of content that resonates well with the end-user, as we have seen our overall business grow by 40% this year alone,” says Ryan.
With Gibson developing their channel sales, they now have over 160 distributor partners worldwide marketing OJO Images and both royalty free and rights-managed collections are included.
OJO now has about 25 contributing artists from around the world. They are always on the lookout for new talent to join their cooperative on a contributor basis. However, they accept and sign only photographers whose work they consider to be truly exceptional and select only images they feel will generate meaningful sales. For those they sign, they help them with creative research, shot-list construction, offer art direction for ongoing image creation and also try to help maximize their productions to produce great imagery. In pre-production they interrogate every aspect of a contributor’s shoot for relevance and sale ability and carefully check styling, casting and location. They also script each of the individual shots with the photographer, always allowing enough freedom for creativity and for spur-of-the-moment ideas on a shoot.
OJO has developed its wholly owned shoot production methods in a truly unique way. Their mantra is “no compromise”. With six partner photographers readily available to the creative department, they can undertake huge, dramatic and exciting shoot productions and by utilizing the economies of scale bring them in on affordable budgets. Last month they hired a vast $150 million office complex for a two-day shoot with five separate teams of crew and talent working simultaneously in different parts of the building. They had over 100 people, but 100 who were working efficiently on that one location shoot.
Every month OJO releases a new batch of images and creates over 6,000 new images every year. OJO has a very full shoot-production schedule underway right now and they are looking forward to 2011 and beyond. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of hard work for everyone, but they see no reason to doubt that they will continue to rise above the rest and sell extremely well in the stock image marketplace.
In addition to creating great stock imagery, OJO Images also has a very unique and compassionate side to their business. The group is a major contributor to The Compassionate Eye Foundation, http://www.compassionateeye.org/. They arrange dedicated shoots and have donated over a thousand images to the foundation, which helps CEF raise income by licensing the images through Getty Images. CEF shoots have brought in over $1 million dollars to date, and they are extremely proud to be building their 3rd school in Guatemala this year to help under privileged children there.
You can view several short “behind-the-scenes” video stories of some of the OJO shoots and interviews with some of their photographers on their blog at https://ojoimages.wordpress.com.
Image sales: firstname.lastname@example.org