Guest post by Lee Corkran, Founder and CEO, BrightQube After more than 20 years of observation, former photojournalist and photo industry veteran Lee Corkran envisioned the future of the stock photo industry in an online marketplace with an innovative visual search engine. From that “aha” moment, BrightQube was born. Corkran, nearly three years ago, after going through his own experiences selling stock photos, knew there had to be a better way to make transactions. He appreciated that stock photographers didn’t want their work buried on, say, page 27 of lengthy list of search results. And, he understood buyers didn’t want to click through to get to that page 27, or to check dozens of different Web sites to find just the right photo to fit their design and budget. Corkran and the BrightQube team established a Web site where all images sought would appear on a single, equitable page of results. With BrightQube, stock photo buyers can view all of their findings more quickly, and sellers can rest assured knowing their images are getting seen by potential customers. Much like the visionaries behind Google Maps, Corkran crafted a three-tiered approach to gathering information: 1. overview 2. refine 3. offer detail on demand.

Photographers want their images to be seen.

“With BrightQube, we make sure great photos are being viewed and purchased,” said Corkran. “Up until now, there has been very little innovation in the stock photo market, and we believe BrightQube is a great leap forward. We feel this is the path for the future of the stock photo industry.” Corkran has been on both the business and creative sides of the industry – as a military photojournalist who documented the Ramstein Air Show Disaster and Operation Desert Storm, and as an executive with organizations such as Kodak and Digital Railroad. In recent years, Corkran noted, a voracious consumption of images and an ever-broadening audience have driven stock photo prices down. The supply of stock images is growing, and continues to grow, rapidly due to an increasing number of photographers using the automatic exposure and focusing functions of today’s DSLR cameras. Coupled with the fact that digital photography inherently has no cost for film and processing, even hobbyist and so-called pro-sumer photographers can turn out perfectly exposed images in short order. In light of this trend, online stock agencies mushroomed across the Web in the past few years, allowing virtually anyone to post their images for purchase. Many photographers rushed to upload as many images as they could, and accepted prices as low as $1 for purchase. With these dynamics at work during what officials have confirmed is an economic recession, many stock companies, start-ups and more established companies alike, floundered. Large corporations that sell stock photos can stay afloat selling images at such low prices since they have such a large inventory, Corkran said, but other companies are now questioning whether buyers will continue to be willing to pay for access to smaller and more focused collections. He foresees many stock houses in the near future will raise adjust some pricing to create more of a “broad mid-point” price range. With low-cost stock images flooding the market, Corkran has spoken with many top-tier photographers who say they are having difficulty maintaining a price point that supports their cost of doing business. In this climate, he believes the photographers who demonstrate talent, forethought and compassion in their work will be able to not only survive, but thrive. They will be able to set a higher price point if they are offering a unique product, he said.

“There is an enormous opportunity for individual photographers to create material that can be of sustained value,” said Corkran. “They can weather the storm if they become direct participants in creating great images and working to put them in front of buyers.”

With no shortage of stock images up for sale, many buyers are searching for photos which they assume have likely already been shot, Corkran said. “It’s a fundamentally different way of thinking than before,” said Corkran. The stock companies that survive will help photo buyers and sellers cut through the clutter and easily connect to make a transaction, he said. They will be the companies that focus on making the buying experience as easy as possible. They will be the organizations that give the buyer the ability to get to the right image they are looking for, despite the trends in the market, he said. Photographers should align themselves with companies that provide image buyers with a straightforward and inspirational venue to review and compare thousands of stock images all at once, both easily and intuitively. BrightQube, Corkran said, gives buyers in creative, design and advertising fields an expanded and efficient visual, online search for these large image collections, enabling them to find the right image for every need, design and budget. Designers who use BrightQube search, at a single time, through more than 40 premium commercial photography collections, as well as professional stock from individual photographers from around the world. BrightQube’s breadth of images, currently more than three million, encompasses advertising and corporate photography and illustrations focused on a wide range of subjects including wildlife and nature, family, business, lifestyle, travel and landscape imagery.

The Dynamic Mosaic

The core differentiator for BrightQube is its unique, patent-pending Dynamic Mosaic interface, which enables customers to review stock photography at a rate hundreds of times faster than on other sites. Buyers can use a mouse, arrow keys or a navigational grid to move and filter their findings and to zoom in or to pan out from their search results. Recently, the company announced several new Web site features created specifically to help simplify the process of buying stock photography. They include updates to the home page’s appearance, new search tips and additional options for navigation. Based on the keywords, buyers will find the most relevant images found in the center of the navigational map. Utilizing the technology powering BrightQube’s advanced Dynamic Mosaic, photographers working with collections large and small can be assured their images will appear in front of buyers’ eyes, giving every picture a fighting chance to be found, seen and sold. “Dynamic Mosaic is the online digital equivalent of a light table, a common industry viewing tool used by photographers and image buyers for years. It’s information visualization,” said Corkran. “We believe we offer what no other company does – the most efficient way to connect stock photographers and buyers.” Images are copyright and provided by BrightQube.