Shestock – Real Images, Real Life, Real Women

Sometimes responding to LinkedIn invitations result in delightful discoveries. That is how I met Karen Beard and learned of her new agency, SheStock. She took time from her launch for a brief Q&A and look at some of the  wonderful work of some of her contributing photographers.

© Ellen Barnes/Shestock
© Ellen Barnes/Shestock

What was the defining moment that inspired the genesis of SheStock?

As an assignment and a stock photographer for many years, I felt that there were too many compromises for everyone and that stock imagery was not working well anymore for anyone.

As a woman, I was not happy with what I was seeing.  I felt that I was misunderstood, as the images I saw around me every day did not reflect my life or the life I think most women lead.  And my daughter was starting to see and ask questions about images that made me cringe – I just did not want her to grow up with only the unreal and simplistic images of women that surround us.

As a photographer, I experienced shrinking income and lack of support – and, in some cases, lack of respect.  I think that there are many causes of that, but I felt women artists were not being fully valued.

As someone who has worked with many Art Directors, I realized that there was a lot of discontent for them as well .

I guess I just felt that the pendulum of online stock had swung too far in favor of everyone posting everything, and everyone using images with little soul. Then one morning late last year after too many cups of coffee I realized that I could do something about it.

© Jody Asano/Shestock
© Jody Asano/Shestock

You have 2 business models in your offering – Can you discuss/explain them briefly?

We realized that the challenges in the industry covered both assignments and stock and so we wanted to make both part of the solution we are offering.  What we offer is the work of experienced and cutting-edge professional women photographers.

With our assignments model, we felt that the untapped market was in creating truly artistic images.  I think that the traditional assignment process – where clients and buyers first envision the response they want from an audience and then try to articulate that image could be re-engineered. So we thought: “Lets start this process from the other side” – lets have great photographers and their artistic vision part of the conversation from the beginning.  The response from photographers has been overwhelming.  As we launch, we hope to get the same reaction from the buyer community.

On the stock side of the business, because our photographers are professional artists and because our target buyers are experienced professional Art Directors, marketers, etc., we think that both understand the benefits that come with being rights managed only.  When a buyer comes to Shestock, they can know that the images are curated, current, and stunning, and that our search engine will generate only applicable results.

© Karen Morgan/Shestock
© Karen Morgan/Shestock

Tell me about some of your shooters and your process for finding, and curating photographers.

I started with a group of women that I attended Art Center College of Design with. I knew their work, their skill and they knew me – which made it easier to explain what we were doing and ask them to take a chance and join a stock agency that did not even have a website! I scouted for work that was connected, timely, honest and stunning, and then would reach out.

We have an incredible group of women shooters.  Karen Morgan has stunning images and assignment offerings with Shestock.  She shoots amazing images in the areas of portraits and animals.  Shooting for 18 years, her clients are major companies like Allstate, Pfizer and Petsmart.  Ellen Barnes is also with us, and focuses on lifestyle & fashion.  Some of her past clients include  At&T, Ritz Carleton, Eli Lilly and Bank of America. Our photographers are experienced professionals who know how to deliver great art to our target customers.

What can a client find on SheStock that is unavailable elsewhere?

Well, they will find only stunning and thoughtful images.

They will also find the ability to easily create images, which we think is a core innovation.  We believe this new model fills a void for near-custom images.

A client who comes to Shestock will also find a real company – knowledgeable people who will listen and help them meet their needs.  We are a service business matching the right art to the right need. If we do not have the right image in our library, we can look to our assignment offerings and photographers to create that image.

SheStock is in Beta right now. What kind of feedback are you looking for as you launch the agency?

We have received a lot of thoughtful feedback. The artist-driven assignment model has drawn the most attention and taken the most time for us to articulate.  We would like feedback from buyers on the balance of the trade-offs with that model. So it will be exciting to finally see what the market feels.

On the stock side, I am hoping that our library starts conversations – about the images that are being used today; about the value of visceral images that connect vs. images that try to be everything to everyone; about finding images that really connect to and define the client’s product or service. If we can get the industry to take a closer look at how they think of and depict women, then I think that will lead to some positive changes.

© Lisa Sciascia/Shestock
© Lisa Sciascia/Shestock

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  • Caryl Eagle says:

    Wow – this absolutely speaks to me and echoes my own feelings. I am a photo stylist for still advertising and editorial photography and a production designer for film. My dad was an art director and producer. I started out as a model (sometimes doing what I see now – and even then – as cringe worthy as an evolved, independent woman) and then moved to the other side of the camera where I’ve worked for 30 years now. Business sucks now – low budgets, no respect, etc. and I am also looking for change. Happy to see someone fighting the good fight. Off to Paris to take my own photos of great design for my new blog – What Caryl Sees,, and write about it……