With so much imagery available online today, art buyers and photo editors are no longer limited to traditional means of image research. “We’re kind of living in a post-stock world,” says Jared Drace, and while that might not be what you’d expect to hear from a stock photography studio’s head of production services, Drace is part of a forward-thinking group that makes up the New York–based company HEX. “A lot of ad agencies are looking for user-generated stuff or things on Instagram for their projects,” he explains. But hunting through social media and acquiring rights can turn out to be a bigger hassle than most companies bargain for. HEX fills that space, with its collection of images marrying the authenticity and diversity of social media with the convenience of purchasing royalty-free shots through Adobe Stock.
The company gelled in 2013, when a group of former colleagues at one of the major stock houses decided to take a fresh approach to the industry. “We had long careers in stock, and I think HEX was kind of a reaction to that,” says Drace. The founders took their knowledge of the market and applied it to a new goal: “Let’s take photos that we like, that aren’t from the stock photo handbook,” they said. They also went back to the drawing board when it came to structuring their business. “HEX is a very DIY kind of company,” says Drace. “We don’t have office space, we’ve got a very small cast of characters, and when we do shoots it’s basically a photographer, talent and maybe one other person.”
Keeping their shoots small and casual helps HEX photographers achieve the studio’s signature vibe of spontaneity and authenticity. “It’s almost like our photo shoots are a little party,” says Drace, “like people were hanging out and we just happened to be there with expensive cameras. It’s not like a modeling shoot or a high-pressure situation with all these lights and people running around. It’s very relaxed. We have a sense of community.”
The HEX community is a diverse one, and one of the company’s top priorities is to create images of a broad range of subjects. “We’re trying to photograph people who are underrepresented in stock,” says Drace. That can mean anything from same-sex couples with kids to a hijab-wearing businesswoman. The talent HEX features are often just regular people they’ve tracked down through friends of friends. “We try to pick an interesting person or somebody who has an interesting story,” says Drace. The result is an image that looks authentic because it is. “Even though it technically is stock and we’re selling it on Adobe Stock, we aren’t thinking about the word ‘stock.’” says Drace. “We want to have it look like it’s a real person.”
In Adobe Stock, HEX found a partner that shares their personal approach. “The fact that Adobe is so active with their contributors is phenomenal,” says Drace. HEX has been featured in Adobe’s Create magazine and on the Adobe Stock blog, and has also guest-curated posts to the Lightroom Instagram feed. “It’s flattering,” says Drace, “and I feel it has strengthened our relationship with Adobe, because they’ve taken more of an interest in us than just trying to make money off of our photographs. It feels like they actually care about what we’re doing and they want us to succeed for ourselves, not just for them.”
—Sponsored by Adobe Stock