Evolution of a Visual Researcher

Laura Lucas of Big Picture Research is one of our valued contributors hailing from up north in Canada. She writes today about the necessity of community and our trade associations.

For many years, I worked the same image research job at a media organization. It was not straightforward but there was an entire team to rely on and teach me the ropes. Surprise! Just several years in, corporate restructuring left me as the sole Visual Researcher. I was still somewhat junior, lacking legal experience and a bit overwhelmed in a niche position.

In those early years, I struggled as colleagues looked to me for answers and decisions about release forms, copyright, music fees and where to find images of “Jesus” or “UFO’s.” It never crossed my mind that perhaps the work I did could be considered a professional trade outside my office walls and that there were others who knew the ropes. I simply had to ask. That’s when a supplier put me in touch with an expert in music clearance. She was the perfect mentor who pointed me in just the right direction to get the answers I needed while learning all on my own. We kept in touch.

Several years later I was invited to a Visual Researchers’ Society of Canada gathering www.visualresearch.ca and met a group of colleagues all doing similar work. I was surprised to learn there were so many of us, that our issues and experiences were very common and that requests for Jesus and UFO’s was really just the tip of the iceberg! I felt validated and hopeful that I could become an expert researcher!

I learned quickly to network; put a face to all the people I spoke with each day. I took advantage of a variety of educational workshops this group offered to bolster my experience. Some days we commiserated together and others we shared ideas on how to make our jobs easier and faster! I excelled at my job, became well-respected and eventually outgrew my position. I decided to go freelance!

It was a scary move and I relied heavily on VRSC. The support was instantaneous. Job referrals came my way. Colleagues mentored me at length on starting a visual research business. Travel and tour opportunities to archive facilities presented themselves. The on-going information sharing of contacts, industry news and tips and tricks is gold!

Today, the VRSC numbers close to 100 across Canada. There’s an Annual General Meeting, a full board of directors, a health benefits plan, industry recognition for our field and we have negotiating power as a large body of professionals to get improved prices for our clients. It is clear to me that as the workforce moves toward a freelance business model, there has never been a stronger need for professional trades to band together. You need personal contacts to build trust. Social media just doesn’t cut it.

I have come full circle in my professional life that am happy to serve as a member of the board, eager to promote excellence in the field of visual research and look forward to helping mentor a new group of people that started out just like me.

As an afterwords; other trade associations to explore below – if you are a member of one that we need to know about, drop us a line!

http://www.amcup.org – Association of Media Content Users and Providers

http://www.aicp.com – Association of Independent Commercial Producers

http://aspp.com – American Society of Picture Professionals

There are tons others for Picture Agencies all over the world, including, DMLA(Digital Media Licensing Association), BAPLA(in the UK), CEPIC(Europe) and so on.

For Freelancers – The Freelancers Union offers support, insurance, seminars and more.

Headshot3_TEMPO Photography - BERN -6273Laura Lucas is a Visual Researcher and Rights Clearance Officer with 20 years of experience in the media market. She’s worked extensively with TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin, with freelance video producers and with archivists and libraries. Having just launched her own company Big Picture Research, she’s driven by the thrill of the hunt to find the perfect image that can help bring a story to life and clearing the underlying permissions for its use. Her archival research work in turn has led her to explore the emerging field of digital estate planning and helping people organize and protect their digital assets. See more and contact Laura here: www.bigpictureresearch.com

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