Robert Harding is a veteran travel and landscape photographer, and founder of his eponymous stock photo agency. With over 40 years of experience, he has seen the seismic shifts that have shaped the stock industry. We spoke with Robert and his colleague Mike Watson about the values of Robert Harding the agency, and the changes and challenges they’ve seen and overcome.
Robert’s fascination with images began when he joined the camera club in high school. He went on to specialize in photography in a technical college, and his big break into travel photography came in the form of a book commission on Pakistan.
At the time, Robert was represented by a different agency, but decided that he could play the part of the agent himself, and started advertising for photographers. Thus Robert Harding, the agency, was established. “Naively, I thought it would be easy,” Robert admits.
As a photographer himself, Robert is uniquely positioned to understand the needs of both sides of the equation. “You have a duty to take care of your photographers, but you need to balance that with the market needs,” he shares. It’s a delicate and sometimes difficult balance to achieve, but the rewards are great. Robert and his team feast their eyes on tens of thousands of stunning images composed by award winning photographers, and connect them to buyers, so they can live on in editorials, advertisements and educational reads.
From Analog to Digital
The digital revolution has not only had a lasting impact on the workflows of photographers, but also on how stock agencies interact with their clients. “In the analog days, you had personal contact with the clients,” Robert explains, “they would come into the office to work with researchers and make the purchase.” This connection has been lost and replaced with the digital marketplace.
This digital marketplace has enabled our appetite for content, and stock agencies have had to expand their collections to keep up with the demand. Robert Harding, however, is moving in the opposite direction – tighter curation. They prioritize curating images that are technically impeccable and visually captivating, a mission that they share with Adobe Stock’s Premium collection.
So what makes a stand out travel photograph?
“A compelling travel photo should tell a story,” says Mike, “it should capture a moment in time, and make the viewer want to go there and be a part of that moment.” Buyers of landscape and travel photography are storytellers, and they are looking for that same captivating narrative when they are searching for images.
And for a stand out photograph to become a best seller, it needs to be correctly keyworded, with both representational and conceptual keywords. Robert Harding takes care of the keywording for their contributors, so their photographers can focus on what they do best – making stunning images – and they can focus on helping buyers find exactly that they are looking for.
New Look, New Photographers
Not only has the sales platform changed, so has the taste of the buyer. More and more, clients are looking to purchase images that look like photos shared on social media. “We’re seeing looser, natural, slice of life feel to images,” Mike shares, “likely due to the popularity and accessibility of mobile photography.”
This demand has piqued the interest of photographers who had previously never considered stock as a revenue stream. Unlike their predecessors, they do not come into the industry looking to make a full time commitment, but they are open to adding additional income and gaining recognition.
The stock industry is a dynamic marketplace, changing and adapting to new trends, new technologies and new photographers. In the coming years, Robert and Mike expect to see further, and faster, accelerations in mobile photography and video, and even more simplicity when it comes to licensing the content.
See more images from Robert Harding on Adobe Stock.