RooM the Agency is one of the notable companies contributing to our Focused Collection. Rarely do we get to hear from other platforms that are in a similar line of work. We had a chat with RooM to find out more about their business, thoughts on stock photography and where the future might take us.
Could you tell us more about RooM the Agency, the essence of this project, the early beginnings and where you are now?
RooM was set up by ex-royalty free stock agency image100 creatives and community management teams a few years after the sale of that business to Corbis; ownership is still in the same hands, as is its creative direction. It was formed because we felt there was a gap in the market. Microstock royalty free and subscription models had supplanted traditional royalty free as the go to solution for most clients on a budget but we felt microstock largely lacked a bit of authenticity, so we set up RooM as a creatively authentic high end royalty free collection, which we believed had a viable market – we were right, it did and still has.
In such a crowded marketplace, how do you position and differentiate yourself?
We focus on quality. There has been a race to the bottom in the stock photography space for a few years driven by dropping prices but there is always RooM (the reason for the name!) for quality in the market, which clients are prepared to pay more for.
What are some features or services that are unique to your agency?
We only work with photographers on an exclusive basis and offer the opportunity of a 50% margin to all our contributors, subject to the level of contribution. We have the biggest and best distribution network of any stock photography aggregator, so we offer a broad spectrum of exposure and sales opportunities.
How many photographers actively contribute to your platform? How do you find and choose them?
We work with around 2,000 photographers on a pretty regular basis, but of course the level of engagement varies – as you’d expect. The more our guys contribute, the more they make. We actively invite photographers who we feel are a good fit to join RooM although we do of course also welcome unsolicited applications too and if we get approached by a great photographer, we’re happy to bring them onboard as well.
Could you tell us more about your photographers? Do they work full time as professionals or do you also have enthusiasts?
We started out with a more crowdsourcing approach focusing on mobile phone users but the boundaries have blurred. We have a broad spectrum of contributors that ranges from hobbyists to professionals but it’s not really relevant who shoots the image – all that is important is whether it’s a great shot.
Do you have a strict photo selection process? Is the technically perfect shot more important than an atmospheric one?
We look for aesthetic, saleability and quality of file because without these, images just don’t sell that well.
What made you decide to start a mobile image collection? Does mobile photography sell well on your platform and what is the target audience for this format?
We don’t focus on mobile photography anymore and we don’t even look at sales in relation to what images were shot on but initially it was important to us to help open up stock photography to a new breed of supplier – the mobile photographer. That said, some of our best selling images have actually been shot on mobile devices!
What kind of aesthetic are you promoting with your agency?
We focus on great customer service. We are always there when a supplier needs us, there is no requirement for a support tickets and we’re always at the end of the phone or an email.
What dominating trends in photography and styles have you spotted so far this year?
From a fashion perspective the 90s are making a comeback, so we are expecting this to show up in the styling. We are always driven – this is nothing new – by images that are both beautiful and real, so we like real models but they have to be right for the situation. There is no doubt that authenticity is still important, so we are perfectly positioned from that perspective as most of our photographers shoot images of their friends and family. You can’t get much more authentic and real than that!
What would you say are some important factors in a profitable stock photography business?
Shoot the right situation, in the right way, using the right ingredients. It sounds simple but many suppliers just don’t get this right – do it and you will make money.
How do you plan to expand in the future?
We have looked at video but decided to stay focused on photography and we are looking at the influencer market with our tech partners SnapRapid.
What do you think stock photography will be like in 20 years?
Free – money will be made by supplying services, such as creative solutions and images will become a “free” component of that. Photographers will get paid as part of the package, so it won’t be as bad as it seems!
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