Blend: A stock Agency Success Story
In March of 2004 a new experiment began in the stock photography industry. A group of the industry’s top shooters got together and founded Blend Images. This new agency specializes in producing images celebrating ethnic diversity. The need for ethnically diverse content permeates the stock industry…every agency needs it. Blend Images was created to address that need, and does that with an exemplary roster of photographers. As Rick Becker Leckrone, Blend Images CEO, puts it, “We only brought in top selling stock shooters to start Blend, and we’re really choosy with whom we offer contracts to shoot for Blend
To call that experiment a success would be an understatement. Less than five years after the inception of Blend Images, its collection of images exceeds 80,000, it has over 70 photographers, and has sales of over $6,000,000.00 a year. In addition to a worldwide distribution network, Blend now offers direct sales and has just rolled-out a new premium Rights Managed collection. In a surprising development, Blend recently teamed up with two other agencies, Rubber Ball and Glow images, in the purchase of SuperStock.
Great Stock Photographers and Superior Support
Blend Images has succeeded for a number of reasons. Their niche of ethnically diverse business and lifestyle imagery is in demand by everyone. Blend Images has a core foundation of only the best shooters and is very discriminating in whom they sign on. They have to be discriminating because they give their photographers the kind of support that hasn’t been seen in the stock industry is some time, if ever.
Blend photographers have frequent creative research provided to them, have access to one-on-one art direction, and are able to check their sales and statistical information at will via a “Loupe’ system on the Blend web site. About the Loupe System, Blend CEO Rick Becker-Leckrone says, “We want photographers to be able to understand what our clients are looking for and be able to respond rapidly. Our new back-end system for photographers we call “Loupe” allows our shooters to track their sales in real-time, download their royalty reports, and review their sales history all the way back to day one of Blend. In the future, photographers will be able to analyze all aspects of our sales data.”
Building a Stock Photo Community
Just as important, Blend is building a community with their photographers. Blend has regularly scheduled Skype conference calls with their photographers. For those whose schedules prevent them from participating in the calls, Blend makes audio recordings of those calls available through their web site. In addition they provide yearly multi-day get-togethers for conducting business and for special creative presentations. In one such get-together interested Blend photographers were able to participate in a gang stock shoot. That particular gang shoot involved over fifteen photographers! The fact that Blend is owned and run by photographers clearly shows (even Rick is a stock shooter, though since Blend Images got up and running he hasn’t had much time to take pictures).
The Future, The Best Possible Experience
What does the future have in store for Blend? Blend began as an aggregator of Royalty Free content, that is, a company to create RF images for distribution by other agencies. But the industry has been going through enormous changes and the nimble and talented executives and staff of Blend changed too.
They now not only license Rights Managed content as well, but also are well on their way to become the go-to-place for Ethnic imagery. Numerous other agencies now offer their work on Blend’s site. Blend Images offers support, resources and community to its photographers. They are building a technology base to create a “closed-loop” between photographer, agent and client; and in doing so intend to create the best possible experience for their client base providing the utmost in service to both the licensors and the licensees of stock photography.