Remote-Controlled Creativity

OnRequest helps companies hone their images by taking chaos out of photo shoots.

By Margaret Steen, Business 2.0 Magazine

(Business 2.0 Magazine) -- Halle Hutchison was in a bind. She needed an army of models and photographers for a big marketing campaign at T-Mobile, and fast. So she took a shortcut - no hiring freelancers, booking shoots, or sifting through photos. This time, she managed the entire process on the Web.

"It's usually a full-quarter project to get this kind of shoot done," says Hutchison, director of integrated marketing for the wireless carrier. But by working instead through OnRequest, a Seattle company using Web 2.0 tools to simplify corporate marketing, she pulled it off in half that time. OnRequest's system, which includes more than 1,600 photographers and other professionals, also let her see the photos on a virtual light table, put tags and comments on the ones she liked best, and e-mail them to colleagues on the marketing team -making it a sort of Flickr for business.

Web 2.0 started as a social phenomenon, but professionals like Hutchison - willing to pay a premium for technology that lets them collaborate with co-workers - might drive the next phase. Microsoft (Charts) and Google (Charts) are already betting that collaborative technology will be the next big thing in spreadsheets and word processing, but OnRequest thinks there's room for smaller companies to get in on the trend.

Using a Web interface, OnRequest photo editors screen models and collect information about thousands of locations. The photographers can upload their work to OnRequest, even before a shoot is finished, for a photo editor to scrutinize. "If the photographer isn't shooting with the right angle or look and feel, we can correct it remotely," says OnRequest chairman and CEO David Norris.

The market appears to be wide open; companies currently spend huge amounts of money on photos for use in advertising and other promotional materials, with much of it going to stock-photo powerhouses Getty Images and Corbis. Getty alone took in about $800 million last year.

Using OnRequest is often more expensive than using a standard stock agency; its fees can range anywhere from $500 for a single image to $500,000 for a large image library. But the company does things that its competitors don't. Its software, for example, makes certain that multiple companies don't use the same images. It's hard to know whether OnRequest has started making any money - the company will only say that its annual revenue is north of $0 and south of $100 million - but it does have an impressive roster of blue-chip clients, including Microsoft, Saatchi & Saatchi, Starbucks (Charts), and Visa.

The high-quality photography certainly impressed Jason Napolitano, a senior designer with He hired OnRequest to take photos of the site's nearly 600 "guides," the authors pictured at the top of the pages. "The goal is to create a really good level of consistency," Napolitano says.

OnRequest makes life easier for photographers too. Lawrence Manning, co-owner of a Hermosa Beach, Calif., studio, says OnRequest assignments make up a lot of his work, but they take hardly any of his time because OnRequest handles the logistics. That kind of efficiency makes everyone smile.

How OnRequest works:

1. COLLABORATE: Customers work with OnRequest to specify the types of photos they want and to choose models online.

2. COORDINATE: OnRequest engages location scouts, photographers, models, and others and arranges all aspects of the photo shoot.

3. CREATE: Photographers shoot digital photos and send them to OnRequest's system for real-time review and editing.

4. CHOOSE: Customers use the Web interface to select photos from the shoot and share with others who need them.

OnRequest's Client List: Microsoft; Starbucks; T-Mobile; Visa Top of page

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