11 Aug 2015 Jonathan Ross – Microstock Celebrity
Today, I’d like to profile an industry veteran who is a celebrity well beyond microstock.
His story began in traditional stock photography as a major producer and agency co-owner. Later, he began producing microstock, eventually creating his own specialty agency. He’s now turned his attention to UAV (drone) video.
Despite a busy workload, he has frequently found time to be an educator, a mentor, a speaker/instructor, and a volunteer at industry associations.
He values having fun with your work, investing in research & development, building community among stock photographers, and keeping eggs in multiple baskets.
He is the inimitable Jonathan Ross.
Andersen Ross. They say that behind every great man is an even greater woman, and Jonathan is no exception. He’s not shy about telling everyone who’ll listen: while he gets the glory of being behind the camera, the real work and success come from his wife, who is every bit the industry celebrity herself, Amy Andersen.
Jonathan and Amy got into stock photography over 20 years ago, combining surnames to form their first company, Andersen Ross. This production company excelled in the lifestyle stock genre, with direct distribution to Getty Images and anywhere else they wanted. They built a collection of over 15,000 images (huge for the traditional market) and thrived on high quality production.
Blend Images. When the time came for 25 of the top traditional stock photographers to combine forces and create an agency, Andersen Ross was naturally among them. Andersen Ross was a founding partner and avid contributor to Blend Images.
Cultura Images. Following Blend’s success, Cultura was born as its European counterpart. Andersen Ross was also a partner/owner in Cultura.
Microstock. Open to new business models and agnostic pricing, Jonathan and Amy didn’t waste time when it became clear that microstock was here to stay. They dove into the sector with a string of serious lifestyle productions, creating the AVAVA collection that’s still performing well in microstock today (links below).
Spaces Images. Looking deeper into industry trends, Amy and Jonathan decided to try their hand at creating their own agency. They noticed that a lot of their top-selling images didn’t contain any people, so they designed a new brand with the slogan, “spaces where people live, work and play“.
They added plenty of their own content to the agency and put out a call for contributors. Before long, they were distributing through Corbis, and the business was off and running. Jonathan won’t let me get away with making it sound that easy; in reality, it was anything but. He cites Spaces as the most challenging project of his career, full of setbacks, problems, and defeats. But they came through it all with a robust and growing stock photo agency.
UAV Motion. Jonathan and Amy’s latest passion is UAVs (don’t let Jonathan hear you call them drones). They’re shooting a lot of video footage for stock, for private clients, and even for friends. Jonathan is super excited about how fast UAV photography technology is moving. He also loves the thrill of putting $40,000 worth of equipment up in the air with a remote control. It’s currently Jonathan’s core focus and a huge topic—one for a separate blog post.
When He’s Not Shooting
Jonathan is very committed to his volunteering and “giving back” activities. He strongly believes in sharing his industry knowledge and experience with his colleagues and with every person considering entering the business.
Andersen Ross funds a scholarship at Jonathan’s alma mater and offers internships in the company. Jonathan mentors high school students and donates his used photography gear to schools. He attends many industry events as a speaker or on his own initiative, more than once coasting his own expenses and without charging a penny.
He still takes actively part in many conventions and events and continues with all his volunteer work.
There’s some interesting facts about Jonathan’s microstock portfolio. It contains around 3,000 images which he shot in a single three-month stretch. It has been online since October 2007, and he hasn’t added a single image to it since the initial uploads. But he continues to earn not-insignificant monthly payouts from all agencies.
To achieve their steady sales, Jonathan and Amy used a smart strategy—they shot common themes with intentionally generic styling and a stocky feel. Their collection was designed for high select rates, wide appeal and a long useful lifetime.
More on Jonathan
If you want to learn more about this great man and his photography, take a look at Jonathan’s professional website. You can also find him on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, and Spaces, which has its own Facebook page as well.
For an insight into his thoughts and style, although it’s a little dated now, there are a lot of timeless gems in this presentation by Jonathan from 2008. Finally, have a look at this excellent interview of Jonathan by the great John Lund.