Yvan Cohen

Yvan Cohen

Thu Apr 04 2024

Collage of women's portraits Photo by Ali Khakzadi

How Picture Agencies Can Benefit from Using a Digital Asset Management System

Can photo agencies benefit from a digital asset management system?

We can confidently say the answer is a resounding “yes”! We know this for certain as this is how, and why, we created LightRocket Enterprise in the first place. This is how we morphed from editorial photographers into creating a world-class digital asset management platform.

Editorial photography is an essential part of our corporate DNA. When LightRocket was founded, over 20 years ago, our first incarnation was actually as a picture agency, called OnAsia.

Both co-founders, myself and Peter Charlesworth, were Asia-based photojournalists. Our vision was focused on leveraging the power of the internet and digital technology to show, and license, the work of talented Asian and Asia-based photojournalists around the world.

As we worked to create a ground-breaking first-generation picture agency, we quickly faced the kind of problems digital asset management (DAM) systems exist to solve. We needed to manage a centralized archive, to ingest files from contributors in multiple locations, to efficiently manage metadata, and to control and track access and usage.

Once our agency that began rubbing shoulders with the likes of Getty, we soon realized we were becoming as much an IT company as we were a picture agency. Unable to find existing software tools that precisely matched our requirements, and that truly matched the contours of a professional editorial workflow, we hired developers that could translate and hone our vision into what was to become LightRocket Enterprise - a comprehensive online digital media management platform with an intuitive interface.

A photo of people taking photos Photo by Brett Sayles

From picture agency to digital asset management platform

The howling winds of competition in the picture agency sector, and the growing realization we were coming up with great digital solutions to core media management challenges, prompted us to rethink our business goals and corporate identity.

Photography, particularly of the editorial kind, represented our roots and our passion but there was no way we could compete with behemoths like Getty.

We concluded that the smartest thing to do was to invest our experience and passion into creating powerful online tools for managing visual archives. Our original OnAsia picture agency morphed into LightRocket Enterprise, as we set a new course for the company.

From the ashes of our agency business emerged, phoenix like, the first glittering iterations (actually it might have been a bit rough-at-the-edges back then J) of what would become our world-class DAM system, LightRocket Enterprise.

Today, LightRocket Enterprise is a comprehensive SAAS DAM system that has been adopted by global giants like the World Health Organisation (WHO), the European Broadcast Union (EBU) and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

Staying true to our editorial roots

One of the distinguishing features of the LightRocket Enterprise DAM system is its strong identity as an editorial archive management platform.

Our workflows and functionality reflect a deeply held commitment to editorial integrity both in terms of file authenticity and metadata accuracy. The emphasis is on preserving archives and on maintaining and developing features that facilitate sharing with responsibility, while allowing usage that is controlled and tracked.

This ethical and very archive-friendly approach naturally found favour among international organisations, especially in the health and not-for-profit sector. Not surprisingly, we soon began attracting interest from serving picture agencies, who recognized the value and efficiency of our functionality and workflows - much of which is infused with the original DNA of our photojournalistic roots.

A person looking at photos on a laptop Photo by Karolina Grabowska

How SOPA Images benefits from using our DAM software

SOPA Images picture agency is an inspiring example of how LightRocket Enterprise has helped an agency grow and flourish.

In 2017 the founders of SOPA Images, Geovien So and Guillaume Payen, both photojournalists themselves, approached LightRocket with plans for starting a picture agency and with a request to use our platform to manage their contributors, collections and distribution.

Seeing the natural synergy between the goals of a picture agency and our own editorial roots, we quickly concluded an agreement.

At the time of writing, seven years after our partnership began, SOPA Images has more than a million images in its archive and over a thousand contributors. SOPA's byline is now seen in leading publications around the world.

Our partnership with Getty Images

LightRocket's partnership with Getty Images is a further validation of our strong editorial credentials. As part of this partnership, we have developed bespoke functionality that allows images and video to be pushed directly from LightRocket to Getty - the world's most powerful media sales platform. LightRocket already has over a million images on Getty.

Our editors have worked closely with Getty to establish working protocols and standards that ensure that the editorial integrity of content passing from LightRocket to Getty is rigorously maintained.

How innovative details in our archive management platform boosts efficiency

Innovative details like the inclusion of an additional description field have delivered increased workflow efficiency. Editors and contributors are able to use the additional description field to apply a general caption to batches of images that relate to the same event or subject. They can then work back through each file where specific descriptions are required.

The use of status icons to indicate when key metadata fields are complete, also enables editors to assess the metadata status of files at a glance. Indeed, LightRocket's interface and granular search functionality is replete with visual signals that allow editors to quickly identify files which are new into the platform and need attention.

Contact us if you'd like to know more about how LightRocket works with picture agencies.

Interested in getting to know more?

Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help improve your digital asset management.