Business

At Uppercut, image is everything

Ben Winters in the foyer outside Uppercut’s Parfitt Way offices. - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
Ben Winters in the foyer outside Uppercut’s Parfitt Way offices.
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

A new stock photo outfit seeks a niche.

When it comes to photography, Uppercut Images is personal – with a focus as sharp as the camera’s eye.

“We’re taking a different approach than the competition, a very personal approach with photographers and a lot more human contact,” said Ben Winters, creative developer for the new stock photography firm on Parfitt Way. “We meet them face to face.”

Stock photography – in which the same images are sold over and over again to different customers, with the photographer getting a cut each time – caters to all users with every subject imaginable.

Uppercut is specifically marketing its stock to high-end advertising and designers, building a pool of 100 select photographers to focus on images that are in demand based on market analysis.

“We’re extremely commercially oriented, and very hands on,” Winters said.

Whereas many stock outfits sign up thousands of shooters, using a select 100 will let Uppercut give more support to each photographer and maximize the earning potential of each.

To find shooters, Winters and vice president Ellen Boughn took road trips to meet with candidates face to face, from the slickest studio in San Francisco to the scariest in New York City and every where between.

Some of the photographers were found right on Bainbridge, including Keith Brofsky. The company is now looking for local models, not necessarily professional, but “real people with personality.”

“We used a local 83-year-old man recently in a shoot on dancing. We saw him at Pegasus and thought his energy and look was great,” Boughn said. “Later we discovered that he was a jitterbug expert and cast him with a partner in a dancing production.”

Adds Winters, “We’re looking for a certain level of commitment from the people we work with as we’re willing to give them a substantial commitment.”

Part of that commitment is guiding their photographers on what subjects to shoot, based on Uppercut’s demographic and advertising analysis, and looking at photo trends to see where ad dollars are being spent. Still, the shoots carry a goal of selling images multiple times, and are not “custom shots.”

The company aims to “supply advertising and graphic design clients with the images they need to solve the visual puzzles presented to them,” Boughn said.

She roughly estimates the mostly privately owned stock photography industry is worth $1.3-$2 billion a year, with the two giants, Seattle-based Getty Images and Corbis, taking up about 60 percent of the market.

Uppercut is taking aim at the other 40 percent supplied by mostly small- and medium-size companies.

Although a new venture, as a sister company to Madison, Wisconsin-based Punchstock – headed by the same founder and CEO, Miles Gerstein – Uppercut will be able to leverage a sales force already in place, Boughn said.

Uppercut will license rights-protected images, where image use may be limited by industry, duration or media. In contrast, Punchstock offers royalty free licensing, where the purchaser may use the image unlimitedly after purchase.

Rights-protected agreements ensure a buyer that a competitor will not be sold the same image.

“At the upper end, people are definitely looking for (exclusivity), and are looking for a way to distinguish their brand,” Winters said.

The company has been laying the foundations for the launch of its website next June, to serve customers and photographers with a “very innovative” search engine.

“Our approach to marketing and photography is boutique,” Boughn said, “but on the client side, we play with the ‘big boys.’”

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Cut above

Uppercut Images is located at 175 Parfitt Way, Suite N140. For more information call 780-9400 or see www.whyuppercutimages.com.

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