Of Porridge and Pictures

Girl on ferry crossing between Ardrossan and Arran. Scotland © Robert Perry/ Scottish Viewpoint

Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Inverness – all these places have such an air of romance and beauty. Hard to imagine a lovelier premise for a photo library. Adam Elder saw both a need in the market and an opportunity; thus Scottish Viewpoint.

How did Scottish Viewpoint come about?

I worked as a photographer at a national newspaper in Scotland. Press organizations are always looking to new technology to distribute content as fast as possible and so I saw the onset of digital imaging quite early on – around 1993-ish. At about the same time I became aware of image libraries, rights management etc. And so gradually I put two and two together and laid plans for an image library.
At the time there was only really one bigg-ish library dedicated to Scotland and it was quite set in it’s ways (thousands of slides in cabinets, sending by post, no database etc). I spoke with the owners but they weren’t interested in digital, didn’t feel that the quality was there and probably never would be. So I decided to do it myself. I could really see the writing on the wall with being able to distribute images very quickly and efficiently. I vividly remember the first time I sent an image by mobile phone. At the time it was total black magic! But I completely understood the potential.
I knew of lots of great photographers in Scotland with lots of beautiful images on slides and prints in boxes in the homes and offices really doing nothing. I explained the idea of a digital library to them, explained that I would take on all the scanning and captioning and database etc in return for them giving me their images. And I promised them that if I sold anything we would split the revenue 50/50.
And so I went into partnership with my sister Judith who liked the idea and was looking for a new direction in her professional life. She took on all the business administration and I went out did the client finding and technical stuff. And that was it! We started making money from pretty much day one! Our tagline was that we either had a picture of almost anything in Scotland or we would be able to get one – very quickly. We never said, “No” to a request for an image.

© Lee Howell/Scottish Viewpoint

Are your photographers primarily from the region? How do you recruit?

Almost all of our contributors are based in Scotland. We source contributions mostly by word of mouth and also very detailed knowledge of the profession. We have some contributors who specialize in say, wildlife or portraiture, or food or landscape. If we see content gaps in the library appearing we actively seek out new image makers to help fill these.

The Rights Managed business model is perceived as a more exclusive way to license imagery. What made you decide to go this route? Any plans ever to have a Royalty Free collection?

Rights Managed is right for us and so far, right for our clients. We have always placed huge emphasis on personal contact with our clients, getting to know what they like, getting to know how they operate – getting to know their budget! We don’t have any plans to go Royalty Free at present but that doesn’t mean we rule it our entirely. As a former photographer, I personally don’t feel truly comfortable with losing control over images in the way that Royalty Free demands. We speak with our contributors a great deal and that feeling seems to be the same with most of them too.

A cowboy and an Indian enjoy an ice cream at the Millport Country and Western Festival on the Isle of Cumbrae.

How do you see the collection being positioned/growing going forward?

It’s becoming very difficult to compete against the huge volume image libraries whose models rely on selling millions of images at a lower price. To help with that we have gone into partnership with several libraries who have bigger marketing budgets than we do and wider reach than we do. We’d rather have 40% of a sale that they make on our behalf than 0% of a sale that wouldn’t have come our way otherwise.
Going forward we are currently seeking new image makers who are seeing Scotland in new ways. We are very pleased to have recently discovered The Bragdon Brothers, two guys still studying photography at college but who have a singularity of vision that is exceptional and rare. We’re also very excited to have on board Lee Howell who is an image maker with a view of the world that is truly fantastic. Being able to seek out and persuade guys like these to join us differentiates us from the volume libraries and hopefully gives our clients a great reason to keep coming back to us.
And we are always looking at ways to monetize (a horrible word, I know) the collection on behalf of our contributors. That’s essentially our job. So we are working with new merchandising partners on that front – pushing our collection more to the personal consumer as well as the business client.

© BragdonBros/Scottish Viewpoint

I see you also cover news and current events – in this vein, how will BREXIT change your business?

Who knows! Any attention from outwith what is a small (but great!) country has to be good for business!

Some of your favorite images and/or licensing stories?

Going back to the answer to your first question (our aim is to have a picture of anything in Scotland)… In our very early days we took a call from the Daily Mail picture desk asking for a photograph of a bowl of porridge. We didn’t have one!!!! A Scottish picture library without a bowl of porridge picture! So off I went to the shop on the street corner and bought a pack of porridge which we cooked up, took a photograph on a small digital camera (probably about 1 megapixel at that time) and sent it in. We got a call back thanking us but did we also have a picture of a bowl of porridge with cream on it? So off I went to the shop again to get the cream. Sent that picture in – got the call back from the desk… thanks but we’re actually doing a feature on how people eat their porridge so have you got one with sugar and one with honey too? A couple more trips to the shop for me! But we made the sale, 4 pictures used, a happy client and money in the bank.

What else do we need to know about Scottish Viewpoint?

Since 1996 we have always striven to do our very best for our clients and our contributors. That will never change.

The footbridge known as The Bridge To Nowhere at high tide, Belhaven Bay near Dunbar, with a view beyond to the Bass Rock, East Lothian. © Andy Bennetts / Scottish Viewpoint

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