Chairman/owner of Mint Environment, and CEO/owner of Mint Images, Duncan Grossart is committed to developing innovative and responsible business models that keep people in harmony with the natural world.
At Mint Images, established in December 2011 and operating out of London, this vision is three-fold.
- The first goal is to continue curating an expanding portfolio of stock photographs. These images, relating to the environment, sustainability, health and well-being, are available for commercial licensing.
- Following the “Licensing” aspect is the “Assignment” division, where commissioned photographers are available to corporations and magazines, on an assignment basis, for specific campaigns and features.
- Finally, “Experiences” give private clients once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to experience world-class photographers at work, from the studio to the jungle.
Mint Images is committed to the notion that powerful images connecting us to our evolving planet are capable of changing the world for the better. Below, Grossart, a member of Young Presidents’ Organization since 2009, offers some advice on how you can use your own photos to monetize this positive change.
What do you need to make a good commercial photograph?
From top of the range pro gear to iPhones, concerning actual equipment, it has become a broad church. Depending on the market segments one wants to enter, and the creative effect one wishes to create, anything goes! That being said, a photograph needs to convey emotion, have strong creative composition, good lighting and commercial relevancy. Rather than being an image “of” something, the image needs to “mean” something, portraying conceptual messages like love, togetherness, family, strength and speed. Subject matter heavily influences maximizing commercial returns.
How do you bring your photographs to market?
It depends what kind of photography one does, but the alternatives include licensing your images through an existing large commercial platform like Getty Images, Shutterstock, Adobe Stock or Corbis, or through an independent agency like Mint Images, which in turn has its own relationships with all of the aforementioned. As a rule, the least commercially viable way is to sell your images is directly.
From a beginner’s perspective, I believe the focus should be on learning the commercial craft and shooting as many photos as possible. Having a portfolio and a range of image choices for review are essential when approaching a commercial organization. For the large platforms, this is mostly done online, through open query, which can be time consuming and difficult, with little personal relationship. Though competition is fierce, once contact is established and up and running, it can be navigable. For an independent agency such as Mint, contact the business directly and, if successful, a much closer relationship is likelier to occur. Overall, form a relationship where you can be trusted to provide quality imagery, in quantity, on a consistent basis.
How is the commercial photography industry changing?
The commercial photography industry has been enormously challenging over the past five years, and has suffered contractions in parts of the market. However, there have also been numerous success stories during this time. Significant organizations, and people, remain engaged with it—the Getty family with Getty Images, Jon Oringer with Shutterstock, and Bill Gates with Corbis. At the same time, companies like Adobe, Apple, Google and Yahoo (with Flickr) continue to explore its potential.
I have experienced real optimism this year, and I feel very positive about the future. This was borne out in Mint’s record sales in 2015.
Do you have any tips for building a successful business in the saturated market of commercial photography?
- Do your research. Personally, I have a wide and varied interest in photography, from photojournalism, to commercial and fine art, which I can draw on for inspiration. (Don McCullin for example.)
- Have a visual signature. Develop your own, distinct style.
- Work with an agency. In a way, the Internet has lead to commercial photography coming full circle. The role of the agency has come to the fore once again. With the advent of digital photography, there are now billions of images online. Websites—and photographers—that prepare carefully curated, crafted, and relevant collections have terrific value for clients. They source quality imagery, handle copyright, legal and licensing protection, ensure seamless transactions and represent genuine fair value.
- Do not chase the money. Do what you love.
- If you have a strong visual identity, the ability to execute consistently and rhythmically and guidance from experienced professionals, you can achieve real success.
How has being a member of YPO positively affected your business or leadership?
It has given me more confidence to stick to my principles and focus on developing and leading mission based businesses. I genuinely love what I do.