04 Jul 2010 Veer PhotoOp 2010
If you were following Twitter last week you may have seen myself and quite a few other people posting comments and photos with the hashtag #PhotoOp2010. So what was PhotoOp 2010?
It was a giant stock photo shoot produced by Veer. The primary goal of the shoot was to quickly generate a large volume of images to drive up the quality of photos in the Veer microstock offering. The shooting took place over four days, ending last Sunday. I was honored to be among the photographers invited to participate.
Veer took on all responsibility for producing the shoots and will also manage the edit (selection), post processing, metadata (keywording) and submission of all images on behalf of the participating photographers. Each photographers’ images will be added exclusively to their Veer Marketplace account where the photographer will earn their regular royalties.
Veer & Microstock
PhotoOp comes hot on the heels of the Veer’s Dash for Cash contributor drive and ahead of a major site redesign due in the coming weeks. Dash for Cash has dramatically increased the quantity of community submissions thanks to the monetary incentives for having images accepted. The limit of 100 submission per week and the requirement to have the images approved also boosted the quality of submissions.
Discussions with Veer staff and management provided an insight into the company and its placement in the marketplace. Their customer base is primarily higher-end designers who are passionate about the company and its product offering. This doesn’t make the introduction of microstock an easy process. As they told me, “microstock” was a dirty word for many of their important clients.
The Veer strategy for introducing microstock has therefore been, until now, to offer a column of microstock images alongside the regular search results. This shows clients that there’s some low-priced alternatives that can meet certain needs. The coming redesign will integrate microstock more seamlessly with the other collections, moving emphasis off pricing and removing the “microstock” distinction – hence the recent change to make the ‘Marketplace’ brand contributor-facing only.
Four Days, Nine Photographers, Ten Locations, 150 Models
Veer produced the PhotoOp shoots internally. As you can see, there was quite a lot to do. What made this even more impressive was the detail to which each shoot was produced. Models, wardrobe, properties and locations were coordinated inline with detailed briefs. All this was done for four separate shoots for each of nine photographers! Each photographer had their own models for the entire day so there was no issue with multiple photographers uploading similar shots.
The production was handled internally using Veer’s experience producers and art directors. Other staff were called in to provide additional assistance. Each photographer was assigned both an assistant and a runner, who were, in most cases, grossly overqualified Veer or Corbis staff or professional photographers themselves. Kevin Yee, a professional photographer based in Calgary, was assigned as my assistant. He saved many shots with awesome lighting suggestions. My runner was Christy Herdman, Veer’s Manager of Community Content Editing (i.e. boss reviewer!) who had everything I wanted before I asked for it.
Models were sourced in a variety of ways including agents, Veer’s own model database, friends & relatives of staff, and even street-cast models. Each photographer worked with four models for an entire day, which over four days and nine photographers (and a little repeating models) makes 150 models in total. That’s a lot of model releases!
The photographers were chosen specifically for our range of backgrounds. Many of the photographers were experienced shooters for Veer’s high-end Fancy collection. At the other end was myself – a hobbyist photographer with only modest experience.
While photographers split into three teams of three per location, there were still opportunities to interact at the official and unofficial social gatherings. It was great to hear the perspectives of experienced stock photographers on the event and on microstock in general. These are the other eight photographers who participated:
- Tyler Olson of MicrostockGroup, who I’ve been meeting a lot lately.
- Marnie Burkhart
- Jeff Way & Marta Wilkosz, aka team Wilkosz + Way
- Patrick Lane
- Rebecca Frick
- Monalyn Gracia
- Kate Kunz
- Darren Kemper
Crowdsourced stock photography started with non-professionals. The quality level was generally very low compared to what it is today. Microstock agencies have done various things to raise the quality standard. In the early days many hired professional photographers to shoot wholly owned stock for the collection or created it in-house. Some still do.
Other agencies create events where photographers can participate, create stock at a higher quality level than they have before, and generally raise their experience and skill levels.
PhotoOp 2010 was designed to achieve similar goals: raise the quality of images in the collection; raise the skill level of participating photographers (though in this case most were accomplished professionals already); introduce experienced photographers to the microstock opportunity at Veer; and, test the profitability / effectiveness of produced shooting events.
A Learning Experience
For me, as a hobbyist photographer with very limited experience this event was amazing for me. It’s now almost a week later and I’m still mentally processing, but I’ve identified some of the more significant lessons I’ve taken away from the event.
Just being a part of such a large scale production was itself enlightening. In terms of the shooting itself, the bulk of what I learned came from working with a professional art director. Beau Lark was the art director working with myself and the two other photographers who shared the same location each day.
The difference that Beau made to what I was seeing on the back of the camera was intense. Even on the first day I noted my addiction to having his input into what I was shooting and directing the models. By the fourth day I’d learned enough to get shots to work on my own, but Beau kept stepping it up.
Being able to arrive and just walk on to a set with everything prepared was a pleasure. It demonstrated that production is the bulk of the game. The Veer team had spent months putting together all the parts that made the shoots simple and easy for us photographers.
Here’s a few of my favorite shots which I quickly processed. They’ll look much better once the Veer team have done their magic.
Update: these photos are now online here.
As you can see from my enthusiastic description, I’m absolutely chuffed to have been part of PhotoOp 2010. Everyone was so welcoming and helpful. In addition to all that I learned and all the stock photos I shot, I really enjoyed my week in Calgary with the Veer and Corbis teams. Thanks to all the great people and amazing talents for making it such an amazing week.
Corbis’s Brian O’Shea documented the entire event, including interviews with all the photographers and many other participants. In August that video will be released on the Veer website. I’ll be sure to point it out when it happens. I’m super keen to see how it looks and listen to what the other photographers had to say. I’m also looking forward to hearing about plans for the next PhotoOp, heavily rumored to be taking place in Buenos Aires. 😉
Here’s some behind-the-scenes shots from the iPhone squad. Click for larger version and credits.