Businesses of all kinds have a need for high-quality photo and video content on a near-constant basis. Even in a retail era where businesses and brands actively solicit user-created photos for their websites, apps and social media streams, there is still a need for professional photographers. According to Gaetan Rougevin-Baville, VP of photography and videography firm Meero, in this week's edition of PYMNTS' Matchmakers, “the professionals just do superior work most of the time.”
He added, “From things like equipment to process, to presentation composition and editing, when we are talking about business photographs, businesses often just need to have that product that is professional-quality across the board.”
In the “olden days,” the way to solve that need was with a fairly large, in-house photo and video department to handle the entire call for professional photographic services. Obviously, Rougevin-Baville noted, this was only an option for the largest enterprise-level firms, since it is expensive to keep a fully staffed and capable photo-video department. It is also an extremely inefficient solution.
“Most of the time, this is just not their business,” Rougevin-Baville said. “This is just not what they do.”
Outsourcing, he said, and bringing in professionals photographers as needed should be a superior option because there is, generally speaking, ample supply of qualified potential talent out there for a wide variety of B2B photographic use cases. However, the problem is that, despite the adequate talent supply in the market, there is very little transparency.
Businesses, he noted, can choose between a variety of photographers, but they make that choice armed with little more information than a name and a price. What equipment they use, how they edit their photos, how well-reviewed they are, how fast they can work — this is all information that is not readily available in most cases when a business is looking for photo or video vendors.
That is the problem Meero’s platform steps in to solve, offering its business customers — like Airbnb and Uber Eats — access to vetted and trained local photographers and videographers with an AI-enhanced product that exists as a “turnkey solution for high-quality professional work.”
A Predictable Platform
For businesses using the Meero platform, Rougevin-Baville noted, the integration is fairly simple. Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) tend to use the app to book time and content with photographers on the platform. Larger enterprises tend to integrate through the firm’s APIs.
Meero is not purely a platform business like many other Matchmakers interviewed by PYMNTS. Though the platform does connect businesses to local photographers — within a matter of hours, in some cases — it is not, strictly speaking, a marketplace. Businesses contract directly with Meero; rather than using the platform to peruse through and select a photographer, Meero assigns them one through its local collection. Businesses can request a specific photographer, but that feature entails an extra cost.
On the flipside, Meero photographers are employed and trained by the platform — they do not book independent gigs through the company. Meero contracts with clients, collects payments from them, then pays its photographers and videographers, who have been vetted and approved through training on house style. Reviews are collected from both clients and workers but, though the platform uses them on the back end of assigning, they are not publicly viewable.
That change to the classic marketplace, Rougevin-Baville explained, is important to the market Meero is trying to serve and the problem it was founded to solve: lack of transparency. Businesses do not want to become the judges of professional photography that a traditional marketplace would force them to become. Instead, they can contract out for access to trained, on-demand and stable professionals, who will deliver within the confines of a demonstrable style.
It’s an attractive bit of consistency on its own, Rougevin-Baville told PYMNTS, and it’s only part of the Meero offering. The rest includes access to the firm’s smart-AI technology that automates — and greatly speeds along — the process.
The AI Editor
Creating professional-quality photographs isn’t just about taking the photo itself. Rougevin-Baville said that’s only half the battle. The other half is the photo editing — the cropping, filtering, zooming and enhancing that takes the raw image and transforms it into the photograph to which a brand wants to attach its name. It’s a necessary process, a custom process, because no two brands want their materials edited in exactly the same way, and it can be very time-consuming when done by hand.
However, the process is far faster when automated through AI, which can be trained to do a lot of that cropping, clipping and freshening that refines the photograph, and programmed to learn how to do that job better over time.
“The AI can learn to do different things and different editing techniques for different clients,” Rougevin-Baville said. “It can learn to differentiate between client perspectives, and then guide its editing around that perspective.”
The AI does not work wholly independently — a human editor is still available to make final changes and offer approval for clients. But it does mean that, from the photos being shot to handing clients the business options available, Meero can do in a day or two what firms have traditionally waited for weeks at a time.
Meero is based in Paris, but has recently announced a $45 million venture funding round, which Rougevin-Baville says will go toward further developing the platform and pushing international expansion, with specific focus on the U.S. and Asia-Pacific regions. It is also looking to expand the verticals it serves. Today, Meero’s clients mostly hail from real estate, restaurants and travel companies — and the company is seeing more interest from eCommerce firms.
“We are going everywhere,” Rougevin-Baville mused.
On a serious note, he said, clients everywhere across verticals are looking for photos and videos that are beautiful and will bring attention to their brand.
“And,” he added, “we can use technology to make it easy for them to access that material, for less money and at better quality than if they had done it themselves by hand in three-times the amount of time it will take us.”