In the rapidly evolving market for images, it can be tricky to find the right balance between hanging on to what makes you distinctive and taking advantage of opportunities beyond your usual bailiwick. The Licensing Project, a boutique agency that licenses high-end rights-managed images, has found a sweet spot between staying true to its roots and branching out by partnering with Adobe Stock. The relationship lets TLP expose its artists’ work to a broader market than the predominantly editorial clientele the agency serves directly, while maintaining its curatorial focus.
The agency, which primarily focuses on fashion, beauty and lifestyle imagery, got its start in 2012 in response to the dearth of fresh imagery its founders saw in the high-end rights-managed market. To meet the demand, Kokkinos and his partners assembled a core group of industry veterans and began working with carefully selected photographers. “Almost everybody within The Licensing Project comes from a photography background or loves photography,” he says. “These are not people who are just doing it for the sake of a paycheck. They have very close relationships with the photographers.”
Keeping new work flowing into its archive remains one of TLP’s top priorities, and the agency now represents nearly 300 artists, with offices in New York, London, Dubai, Germany and Copenhagen. “We’re not a small operation,” says Kokkinos, “so artists like the fact that they get that breadth of exposing their work across the globe and we have the bandwidth to cope with it.” Even as it’s grown, the agency has carefully maintained its personal approach to working with artists. “They get downtime with their licensing agent or a creative person to talk through what they’re doing, what they’re excited about and what we’re seeing our clients buying more of,” says Kokkinos. “It’s very much a symbiotic relationship between the artist and us.”
While TLP’s success has been built largely on meeting the needs of editorial clients, the agency has also kept an eye out for other ways to improve the fortunes of its artists in an unpredictable market. Enter Adobe Stock. With its formidable clientele of large corporations constantly looking for fresh images to use in business communications, Adobe Stock offered an ideal secondary market for TLP’s archive. “We’re boutique,” says Kokkinos. “The beauty for us is how The Licensing Project fits with the type of imagery Adobe Stock wants to bring to its enterprise clients.”
Because those enterprise clients are mainly interested in the more commercial advertising-style images TLP’s photographers produce, the agency can provide a steady stream of work to Adobe Stock without diluting the exclusivity it offers editorial clients. “It was important that the imagery they wanted from us was not cannibalizing what we were already doing,” says Kokkinos, “because the last thing you want is for you to be licensing an image and Adobe to be licensing that same image to competing clients at the same time, so that it appears in two magazines in the same month, in the same country.” With enterprise clients using TLP’s more commercially oriented images mainly in business-to-business communications and for short stints on social media, that kind of conflict is out of the picture.
As the market continues to change in ways no one can fully predict, one of TLP’s main concerns is putting its artists in the best possible position to meet its demands. “I think the old phrase ‘innovate or die’ has never been more relevant in the last 20 years than it is now,” says Kokkinos. “The industry is definitely coming down a little bit because budgets are being cut. And if someone invents the next Facebook or Instagram, the whole market could change completely.”
The Licensing Project is helping its photographers ride the wave by keeping a dialogue going as they plan new work, finding new opportunities like the Adobe Stock partnership to benefit them, and understanding that, at the end of the day, both image creators and image buyers share a common interest. “Nobody wants the industry to be dumbed down to the point where imagery is just homogenous,” says Kokkinos. “I think creatives, artists, photo editors, art directors—all these people in the industry—will always be willing to spend a little bit extra for beautiful imagery. So I think there’s always going to be a place for the high-end rights-managed image.”
—Sponsored by Adobe Stock