Our aerial image bank has just turned six. Back to the genesis and philosophy of HOsiHO, with its founder
(posted on march 10th, 2020)
Sami Sarkis talks, in this unvarnished interview, about the genesis and the philosophy of HOsiHO agency, and shares, his feelings and analyzes, about the profession of photographer/videographer and questions relating to image banks in general - which he has long practiced as a contributor - and to HOsiHO in particular, which he founded in 2014 in response to his vision of what a stock images library should be.
« As an image creator for almost 35 years, I founded the HOsiHO agency so that authors can make a decent living from their artwork and so that buyers can easily find high quality legally shot aerial images at a fair price. »
What does the word HOsiHO mean and how do you define your agency?
Sami Sarkis: « Oh, it's a wink! We needed a short word, simple to memorize, and quite meaningful, in aerial terms. HOsiHO is therefore not a Chinese or Japanese word, as some people believe! It just means in french High So High (Aussi Haut, in french). In fact, I really think the world is often more beautiful from above. And as I often hum this refrain from Serge Gainsbourg’s song “I’ve seen New-York, New-York-Usa,… I’ve never seen anything so high. Oh it's so high! ", this name quickly imposed itself on me!
Defining HOsiHO in a few words is very simple, obviously, it is now our credo: An Agency By and For Artists!
And these are not empty words. Just follow us day by day, or read this interview to capture all the senses! "
Why did you create an aerial image bank and what were you doing before?
I think I am pragmatic and logical if we want to last, prosper and renew the images that we have to offer to our customers: everyone has something to gain and you have to be blind not to see that by continuously lowering prices ( see my answers below on the future of the stock business), this industry is only sawing the beautiful branch on which it was still sitting, barely 10 years ago!
Imagine that an agency like Alamy, to name just one but they are all the same at the present time (and I would have the same speech with Getty Images with whom I have more 5000 photos) - Alamy, with whom I always have 15,000 photos online, which brings me barely 50 € / month, or 0.04 € / year / images (!) - has an offer of more than 200 million photos from 100,000 photographers and 650 funds. Guess what their turnover was in 2018?
How have you developed the HOsiHO aerial collection since its creation in 2014?
Sami Sarkis: « At the start, I put my own collection of aerial photo and stock video footage of southern France (produced under our french drone operator name), then I contacted authors who had beautiful images . During 2 years, I went to seek one by one the first contributors, and very quickly HOsiHO became a very nice collection in France. So much so that we sold a lot of clips to French television and documentary producers, as well as to the broadcasts of the Lotery draws!
Some British talented authors quickly joined us, and English iconographers and production houses immediately spotted us and placed great orders.
In 2017, I opened the collection to Europe and the World. More and more pilots and aerial filmmakers came to knock on our door with beautiful images for sale.
In 2018, we had passed the 100 signed authors mark and the influx of ever more beautiful and numerous images made it imperative to change gear and invent a whole new way of ingesting new videos. and photos, their captions, their selection, and their indexing on search engines with a fast and smooth online publication. We then imagined a digital media management platform, totally dedicated and in line with our needs. Built from scratch with our special needs.
In the summer of 2018, we opened a contributor portal with a private and secure access. After the debugging phase - a real plague to live! - everything was quickly linked, and the authors quickly adopted this simple, fast and user-friendly tool. We report sales there daily, issue monthly sales reports, and also post lots of consultation statistics and image search terms. The authors love being able to follow the success of such and such videos or photos as much as we do!
Finally, in April 2019, we opened the new public site which offers a new experience to visitors. More modern, faster and very enriched compared to our first site.
With these tools, we will devote the year 2020 to communication and marketing, to make our offer even better known to the world of image buyers.
We have of course already started, with membership of the british association FOCAL, as well as a new indexing portal widely used in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, which brings us great visibility in Central Europe.
Then, the distribution of the HOsiHO collection by the INA (french National Institue of Audiovisuals) will be a reality next April, and we are quite feverish, to tell the truth!
Launching, marketing, and bringing to life a stock of images is very long, complex and quite random.
After six years, we are not at the end of our pain, but we still have the same flame inside us and have been able to inspire C O N F I D E N C E !
Our best asset is to last, by maintaining the trust of our authors, and by gaining that of new customers every day. One by one.
On a human scale, simply, and with humility and passion. »
How HOsiHO is positioned compared to other stock agencies?
How do you see the future of selling stock images, and what is your pricing policy?
Sami Sarkis: « I am not strictly speaking an Expert in this particular economic sector, but my feeling is quite positive with regard to stock footage.
Under certain conditions, which it is up to the creators themselves to control, it will still be possible to make a living from their production of stock videos, I will come back to this, but if I only speak of footage, it is because stock photography is in my opinion far too devalued today.
Buyers no longer want to pay the rates, however honest, that we post (ie. from 149€ to 499 € per photo).
The publishing and press industry has been going bad for a long time, and it is only fair that we can still sell a photograph at 30 € to a press publisher.
And still, we are lucky here, since most microstock sites offer photos at 0.99 € ...
Videos still pulls out of the game because it remains more difficult to produce, technically speaking: it takes a mastery of camera movements and have notions of film narration, which means saying: "what story will I tell in this 30 seconds sequence?".
And since we are talking about aerials, it is obvious that the entry ticket, and the personal investment of the author are even more important.
However, with the advent of hobbyists buying a drone and improvising on this field, we saw a great flood of drone images from all over the world.
This abundance is not necessarily negative or of poor quality, it just generates dilution. Which is never good for a creative to see his most beautiful works literally drowned out by thousands of other poor images.
As for the buyer, he no longer knows how to find them. Everyone ends up losing, in this glut.
Especially those who work handcrafted. Producing little but always with a high quality.
We love these artists. Perhaps they are the last Dinosaurs of a disappearing era?
We await them, will welcome them with open arms and will do everything to expose their images to the eyes of the world!
Because the trend for a decade, among large agencies, is to receive many images from a large pool of videographers / photographers, more or less amateur or semi-professional. A pool of several tens of thousands of contributors.
It's Crowd-sourcing. And the multinationals of the stock image love it: no longer depend on a few big and talented producers of images, as was once the case, but on a host of anonymous people, who are hard-working and easy to thank. No accountability to either, no personal connections, and no illusions either.
The observation is quickly bitter for the unproductive authors who believed in the lark mirrors: they have no chance that their videos remain visible for a long time, or even that they can keep up with the pace by always producing more, faster, would not be to stay in the race!
Not only will they sell less and less often over time (internet time, ie a few weeks at most), but they will sell at prices they could never have imagined, ie between 10 € to 0.07 € cts (and that is experience)!
This way of working has a name: Quantity versus Quality.
HOsiHO refuses it and offers a simple and fair model for its authors and buyers: Quality and Originality.
This means that the artists can produce at their own pace, and sell at higher prices, receiving half the amount paid by the client. (a fact that has become extremely rare in the world of image banks, where 30-35% for the author has become a standard, when it is not 20-25% for some).
But let the image makers make no mistake: offering the same clip at HOsiHO and depositing it on sites at very low prices is a losing strategy in the short term.
Any sensible buyer will know how to find the cheapest site offering the same image. and to believe otherwise is to deceive yourself and waste your time.
The only paying strategy for a talented author who wants to sell, and especially to make a living from his images, is to hold his prices.
Basic economic rule but which, at a time of globalization, seems more and more ignored.
The future of this business cannot go through an endless race towards the lowest prices.
In any case not with professionals and so-called quality images.
It is up to the authors and certain agencies, including us, to ensure that their images are not found everywhere and at all costs.
The consistency of the offer is due as much to the richness of the collection on offer as to its justified and non-discounted price.
Who would have the idea of selling off what has value, which is relatively rare and complex to achieve?
Obviously, no one.
So let's stay the course, and stay consistent. It's here the only reasoned way to prosper. »
What sets HOsiHO apart from other stock video libraries?
Sami Sarkis: « My answer is likely to be a bit long as I glimpse "differences " !
1 - we are on a hyper specialized niche market and are family-sized, which allows us to work hand in hand with our artists so that they provide the images that our clients really need, and that they cannot find elsewhere. Little detail of some importance: the aerial images proposed by our visual content providers are all shot by professionals duly qualified and having operated these flights legally in the concerned countries.
2 - we listen to the market and to customers. We share their research to our contributors base who will often go and shoot specifically the requested footage, such as this bus on a country road in eastern France or these Wimbledon courts at sunset for an advertising project, or the city of Marseille seen from Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde for a French fiction. Sometimes the bet is a winner, like for the bus drone shot, sometimes it is vain, but that is what our customers are looking for above all through an agency of our kind!
3 - We give a reliable date of creation to our images, which allows the buyer to sort among the old or ultra-recent images, and to classify them by season. Some buyers only sort by this criterion: Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring!
4 - Fair and trusting relationships with our contributors: we pay our authors 50% of the sale and do not lock them in an exclusivity contract because we know that the freedom to choose its modes of distribution and its agencies is fundamental on the long run.
5 - No excessive discounts, like Black Friday with up to 60-70% off. We limit the issue of coupons to 20% off, once or twice a year.
6 - We do not take part to the Race to the bottom. So there's no low-cost microstock-type rates on HOsiHO.
Our prices are set in order to support the creative authors and the agency, and are based on the use intended by the end user.
For HOsiHO and its customers, it is normal for a clip used only once in a News program to be sold at €149.00, and if it is intended for national or international advertising, that it is billed more, up to €849.00. A question of common sense.
7 - Daily highlighting of artists' work via our galleries, social networks, interviews with contributors and our newsletters sent to over 15,000 subscribers.
8 - Direct connection and without commission between clients and aerial photography, operators, especially in France with our HOsiHO Drone Network.
9 - Direct distribution of the collection via our ultra-modern platform, and via a few indexing portals. Exceptionally distribution via prestigious Institutions like the INA, and with whom we have a clear and well-bordered contract, especially in terms of prices, since the INA offers the HOsiHO collection at the Premium rate, which is the highest possible!
10 - a very European anchor, for a range of aerial images that aims above all to be qualitative, calling on the talents of creators and new technologies, such as drones, hyperlapses, 4K, 6K, 8K, and very soon the immersive 360 video, which we are going to launch through a new VR360 collection. »
A conclusion? Any new projects?
Sami Sarkis: « Yes, always projects, but above all thanks:
To all our contributors who make the collection and without whom nothing would be possible.
To our customers who follow and support us despite the natural temptation to go for the cheapest.
To our partners, show organizers, professional associations, indexing portals, journalists, consultants, for their availability and understanding of our values, limits and differences.
At last, a project, that of bringing together, under HOsiHO's banner, a multitude of services and solutions around aerial footage and creative imagery.
To be followed over the next years which promise to be rich, surprising and therefore exciting! »
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