CandyBox Photography: Stock Media Production from the Czech Republic

February 24, 2011, Author: Vitezslav Valka, Categories: Interview, Photographer, Showcase

CandyBox Photography is a relatively new production studio focusing on microstock. And it’s logo is pink too! Based in the Czech Republic the team is pretty close to Pixmac and therefore we’ve met with Jean-Marie Guyon at the Pixmac head office to discuss the future of the industry. Some of the thoughts we had are mentioned in this interview.

What’s the history of CandyBox Photography? How did you get started?
I have been professionally involved in advertising, design and traditional photography for the last 20 years. Being aware of the approaching worldwide economy crash, which resulted in drastic reduction of Marketing & Advertising budget, and in for a new challenge, I decided it was time to do something else. I have been working for multinational companies and many top rated clients like the Royal House of Holland, government agencies and departments, pharmaceutic companies, retail and food franchise and such like. Of course, all of my clients and friends thought I was crazy because the business was good then, so it was a very tough decision to make.

I am very creative and have always loved photography. I did not want to go back to the traditional photography and be dependent on clients such as magazines, publishing houses and advertising agencies. I used stock photos for my clients in the past but never took time to do a proper research in the industry. Nevertheless, after a little bit of research, I came to a conclusion that it could be done.

A former client from the real estate development industry, who has become a good friend of mine, also encouraged me to go for it. So he became one of the business associates and we began the venture of CandyBox Photography at the beginning of 2008.

We knew that it would take at least two years to develop, to understand the market and to put the professional team together. We have passed the trial period in the summer of 2010. Then we knew that we can produce quality stock images and be one of the players in the stock industry market.

Jean-Marie Guyon at Pixmac

Jean-Marie Guyon at Pixmac

What is your position in the team?
Beside being the founder and CEO, I am also a Creative Director, but mainly, one of the photographers actively involved in the shoot of our fast growing image collection.

At Work

At Work

Why microstock and not RM?
We have our image collection represented in traditional RF as well as in microstock. I do believe that you can reach higher profits without participating in RM. RM is, for me personally, an old “expensive” business model. The buyers of stock photos will search for alternative and cheaper images in RF. I believe that microstock, midstock and macrostock will merge in one new RF business model in the future. The quality of RF, mainly in microstock, is permanently improving and nowadays is equal, if not superior, to the traditional stock images collections.

How about the future of the studio?
The future is bright! The future is pink! We are determined to become one of the key players in the RF image industry. We are convinced that it is possible to run a stock media production company while having a lot of fun and producing a huge amount of quality images at the same time. We have just started…

What is your specialty in terms of themes?
The focus of our stock photo are lifestyle images with people. We do not photograph still life, nature or landscape, because we love the interaction with models, which makes the job different every time. It also keeps us sharp and lets us discover new possibilities.

Do you prefer exclusivity or not?
I have chosen this industry to keep the independence and creative freedom as much as possible and therefore our company’s business model does not meet at all the exclusivity requirements of any agency.

You once said that prices of images ‘based on pixels’ are nonsense. Why?
The statistics show that every year the advertising budget for traditional media like print have decreased while the opposite is happening for online media spendings from advertisers. In addition to that, a revolution has began with the introduction of Apple iPad and other digital tablets, whereby many more photos will be used in a non-printed format.

If we keep the old pricing model (you pay less for smaller image) professional buyers will purchase just the small pixel size photos, sufficient for iPad/online media. And for a small amount of money they reach hundreds of thousands of readers every single day, which the traditional magazines or printed publications could only dream of. So why should the price be based on pixel size?

I believe in one price for all, but not as subscription based cheap sales model. The price model could be based on the viewers or the distribution coverage, a kind of digital tagging / finger print. Actually the exposure of the photo/distribution use could have a better pricing formula, something similar to the old RM licensing.

Finally, it does not make any difference for a photographer, because we shoot the picture on a highest possible format in pixel anyway and the production/processing effort remains the same.

Vita: You’re right, but technically I see a lot of challenges there. But just talking about it and thinking about it we might find the right solution.

Is there anything that your studio misses or would like in an agency’s backend support environment?
Do you have time? Yes in general there is a lack of professionalism towards contributors from agencies. Anyway there are good ones as well as bad ones too, but mainly we would like to see the implementation of multiple user “contributor” account giving several privileges depending on the role they have in our organization. At the moment, we have to use one password and ID with the same privilege for all editors in the company. It is as silly as me giving to my team members the PIN code of my credit card would be. Finally I do not think it will require a lot of work from the agency to implement this in their backend systems. Every market needs to have a proper balance on each side of the triangle, formed by the buyers, the resellers and the producers. They are all equally important. If there is no producer – there is no product – no reseller. I realize that it is not that simple but basically it is. We are still wondering why agencies are always behaving quite arrogantly towards serious contributors. I do think that a better proactive cooperation will result in a better content which will of course profit the buyers. Where is the sense in getting, for example, best keywords statistics afterwards? The lack of industry standards is always a big problem. I do think that creating industry standard between agencies (search methods, categorizing etc..) will only improve the buyers experience and result in more sales. Of course proper backend logic and fast contributors system should be a priority for all serious agencies.

Vita: I completely agree with you here. We definitely plan to update and improve such processes as it’s the only way how to make all three parts of the triangle happy and profitable in long term. I’ll keep this interview as a note ;-)

Does Pixmac make sense for you in terms of sales?
Our portfolio has been online at Pixmac only for few months, so it is too early to make any conclusions about sale results. On the other hand, we are very pleased with our cooperation, the professional behavior, and the excellent and open communication and your creative background.

Also we love the interface and the website design, pink suits us very well. Did you know that the Pantone designers color of the year 2011 is fade pink? Coincidence, or will 2011 be the year of the pink revolution?

Vita: Nice! Sure 2011 will be the year of pink revolution!

Is there anything that we should change/improve at Pixmac?
We hope that in the near future Pixmac will become a full blown stock agency and will not only redistribute, but will have a strong position in the future stock industry business.

Would you support activity that we’ve described in the Declaration of Fair Stock Photo Agency?
YES, of course we are standing fully behind this fantastic initiative.

Vita: Thank you Jean-Marie. I’m going to build the temporary page of fair stock photo agency right now. As I think there must be someone paving the way for others.

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