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Q&A with National Geo Shooters on Beta Testing Digital Railroad's Marketplace

Sisse Brimberg & Cotton Coulson

Sisse Brimberg & Cotton Coulson

Sisse Brimberg & Cotton Coulson

Sisse Brimberg & Cotton Coulson

Sisse Brimberg & Cotton Coulson

Sisse Brimberg & Cotton Coulson

Cotton: We have been a long time friends of Evan Nisselson, and there have been times where I questioned how far he could really change the industry with DRR. Having a platform where we can upload and distribute our images to clients is a nice, handy tool, but in the end we always felt that DRR Marketplace was the product that could change the game for independent photographers. Now, all we need is an active buying audience. This will come over time, through marketing and word of mouth. It all sounds good on paper; photographers can now control their own destiny and distribute their image collections. This new product could really prove that out.

One last point I want to make was how much I love being a part of the international contributors from around the world that Evan and team have signed up to DRR. It already feels like an international photo agency, and if you know Evan, you immediately understand where that comes from. He has great charisma and charm, and loves sophisticated photography. I think that buyers are going to come to appreciate this collection for that reason alone. Here, they are going to be able to find photographs that can't find anywhere else. Anyway, that is the promise.

ii: Describe your experience as beta testers for Marketplace? What tweaks did you suggest? What improvements can still be made?  What features cannot be improved upon?  What is the best thing about this new service?

 Cotton: With my design and Internet background as head of Product Development & Design for CNET Networks, Evan invited me to review some of the early page designs and give feedback. The page designs were very clean, and I think the final look and feel is very contemporary and accessible. The most interesting new feature is what they call "Community Ratings" which should help, over time, to refine the collection so that the "most searched" images are at the top of search results. Everyone who is a registered user can rate images. We all know that buyers don't want to spend lots of time clicking through pages and pages of mediocre images- hoping that this feature sets this service apart from the competitors.

What's also great about DRR Marketplace is speed to market. We finish shooting during the day and the pictures are available on the site in few hours later. This uploading process normally takes months of contract discussions, editing, back and forth with editors, filling out pages of spreadsheets, metadata and key-wording-- every agency has their own propriety system.  With DRR, it's the same system as we have been using for several years, as Marketplace is merely an extension of our existing archive, You can refine and change your image metadata over time from your own personal DRR archive. Then, the changes are made to the Marketplace submissions. Everything is now happening in real-time. The Internet is all about transparency, providing feedback back and forth to the suppliers and buyers. There are a lot of tools on the DRR platform that give photographers immediate feedback about how their images are being searched and sold.

ii: Now that you are using Apple Aperture, DRR and Marketplace: How has your workflow and business model changed from years past? What if you had to give up DRR tomorrow? How would that change your approach to the business of photography?

Cotton: We are hooked on this fluid workflow. If we had to give up DRR tomorrow, we would need to find another service just like it, one that is integrated with Aperture and our archive. I am surprised that Apple has not done this for professional photographers; maybe it's in the pipeline. As amazing as DRR is, let's not forget to consider how revolutionary Aperture is as new way to process RAW files, and more importantly, export your files in a variety of formats to a variety of mediums. Books, websites, emails, Final Cut Pro Video, the list gets longer each day. This is its amazing strength- the thinking around the Export Plug-ins is pure genius. I am interested now in having Aperture develop with their partners a set of import plug-ins, so we can seamlessly bring in all types of media and file formats into our Aperture Library.

ii: Do you believe that the technology has gotten to the point that you are confident it will simplify your workload when photographing "off-site?"  If yes, any anecdotes or experiences that demonstrate this?

Cotton: There is nothing called "simple" when it comes to digital workflow. Simple was in the old days when we would come back from a day's shoot, mark our rolls of Kodachrome with a marker pen, and head down to the restaurant for a glass of wine and lovely meal, imagining in our minds about all the great moments we took earlier in the day. That was simple. No, this new world is full of stress, and always thinking about worst case scenarios. Back-ups, hard-drives crashing, this is not simple and stress free. But it is fluid and convenient, and the quality of imagery that we are making with the new cameras is impressive. I am still looking for a non-destructive hard-drive that does not spin, but behaves more like compact flash memory. That will be the technology invention of the century; one is which we do not need to worry about our data getting ruined.

ii: With DRR/Marketplace, do you believe you have the ability to/ are/or will be making money 24/7, essentially "while you sleep?"

Cotton: We are very optimistic and hope that Marketplace becomes a viable contender in the competitive stock and assignment arena. It largely is in the hands of Mark Ippolito, who is in charge of the Marketplace sales team. We have decided to begin carrying with us a copy of our entire Aperture library, so that if someone requests as image, and it's not already up on Marketplace, we can export it from our Aperture Library within minutes. This is a major sea change in working off-site, as long as you have a connection to the Internet. We should also mention that we are members of the Aperture Professional Users Network. 

ii: How did arrive at basing your home in Denmark? How does your European location affect photo assignments/jobs?

Sisse: Originally, we lived in Paris, which we both loved, but we came back to Copenhagen so I could work on the Danish Royal Theater Book. Cotton had been talking about living in Denmark for a very long time, and so we decided a couple of years ago to take the plunge. It's a very sophisticated and convenient country, suits our design and aesthetic sensibilities.

We own no cars, we bike and shop for everything, it's very old-world, 21st Century, which suits our temperaments. We live three minutes to the train station, 20 minutes later we are checked in on a flight to Nepal. Many editors love the fact that we can travel anywhere in Europe from Copenhagen for little cost. There is a wonderful airline company called Sterling that flies you around Europe for low fares.