Kassandra Hunt and Claire Bonnor – Founders of Austockphoto

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Kassandra Hunt and Claire Bonnor met back in uni days and pretty soon after graduating started Sydney design and branding agency: Boheem. Over the years they learned how to work effectively as a partnership and complemented one another’s strengths. That was twelve years ago and Boheem is still going strong.

Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?

In 2015, Kass decided she and the family needed a break from Sydney life, and devised a harebrained plan to sell their house, buy a caravan and hit the road. This got us thinking about a new focus for Kass during her ‘break’, and the idea for Austockphoto was born. We had often lamented the lack of a fairly priced, royalty free Australian stock photo library, but had never had a moment spare to ever contemplate building one.

Can you please explain your business model?

Austockphoto is an online image library which licences royalty-free photographs. ‘Royalty-free’ means that the customer pays a fixed price and then is able to use the image as they wish, with only a few restrictions (as opposed to ‘rights-managed’ where a customer pays according to how and where the image will be circulated).

The images are submitted by our artistic contributors, who are a diverse and talented group of just over 100 photographers from all over Australia. We’re splitting sales 50/50 with our contributors, which is higher, we understand, than most stock photo libraries.

What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?

We launched in late August 2016 with a beautiful collection of just over 12,000 all-Australian photographs curated by us. The collection is looking great, but we know there are still a lot of gaps that we need to take care of. So we’re working on getting alongside our photographers to support them in capturing more, and inspiring them to tell the stories of people and places around them.

Tell me how you make your ideas happen?

Ideas happen when they are supported by other ideas. The process of forming this business has been one involving many ideas to give weight and direction to the first ‘big idea’, as well making teamwork and collaboration a priority. Plus, of course, lots and lots of bloody hard work, long hours and determination to push through no matter what. A good idea is made great when it’s paired with action. And lists… if it’s a ‘to do’ then it must be done!

What role have mentors played in your business life?

We’ve always believed in the value of having a ‘teachable spirit’… if you have a know-all attitude, you’re never going to learn anything new. Our partnership is a really supportive one and we always have a lot to learn from each other – so that’s great to have. And we do have a mentor, her name is Leanne – she’s always got some pearls of wisdom to throw our way as well as some challenging questions to keep us on our toes.

In the establishment of Austockphoto, we really approached it knowing the designer, or ‘end user’ side of the equation. We really didn’t have much idea how things should work from the photographer or library side, so it has been great to collaborate with our contributors and be able to bounce ideas off them. We have a number of artists who are very experienced in the world of stock photography who have given us some invaluable ideas and direction.

What does your typical day look like?

Since we don’t work in the same physical space, we rely heavily on our task management system as well as instant messaging to stay in touch. We’re also in pretty constant contact with our web developers because the Austockphoto website is in a permanent state of change. There’s a bit of liaising with our customers as well as, of course, our photographers – providing ideas for shoots, keeping them informed. Each day new images are contributed to the library, and we take the time to look at each of them to agree together which photographs do or don’t make the cut.

What challenges have you faced when starting or growing your business in Australia?

The main challenge we both face daily isn’t unique to Australians. We both have young children and wish to be able to give them and our partners 100% of our time and attention. But at the same time, we’re really just so excited about the possibilities for the Austockphoto community and want to be able to give it 100% as well. It’s tricky when there’s a problem with the website functionality we need to address pretty immediately, whilst meanwhile, there may also be a crisis involving a 5-year-old’s craft project that also needs urgent attention!

How do you see the face of business changing, and how has that impacted Austockphoto?

We are living in the era of internet-based business structures like Uber and Airbnb, plus social media which feels like it’s just getting busier. Contemporary culture has enjoyed a new sense of independence, and buying locally-sourced and beautifully crafted goods has become mainstream. Some people aren’t prepared to embrace this change and that’s ok. But we see an exciting new sense of community re-emerging, where people are able to connect and make an income their own way when they hadn’t been able to previously.

It’s exciting to see new opportunities to buy ethically and make a real, positive impact by supporting local people taking the initiative. We believe this sustainability mindset is not a passing trend; it’s a paradigm shift. We see Austockphoto sitting very much in this space – being a resource provided by artists, for artists – because we believe in business integrity and the power of like-minded creative people working together.


What companies do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment? 

Austockphoto has come about because of a gap in the Australian creative industry. So we like to think that our library is a bit novel in the Australian marketplace, at least in terms of its scale and collaborative approach.

As the word has spread about Austockphoto we have been fortunate to make contact with a number of inspiring people doing amazing things in the photography, design and digital space.

One example is Mikaela Jade, an Indigenous woman and the founder of a company called Indigital, based in Kakadu. They are passionate about Indigenous leadership in the digital economy and using cutting edge digital technologies for the cultural and economic benefit of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Peoples. She also happens to be a pretty handy photographer too!

What about internationally?

There are quite a number of big, international stock photography libraries with massive image numbers in the marketplace which have been around for the last few decades. Despite this ‘saturation’ it has been nice to stumble across other stock libraries like us, that have developed a smaller scale, boutique library that tries to capture the spirit of their homeland. Folio is one company based in Sweden and Finland that seems to have this same philosophy for their specific Scandinavian market.

What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?

In the founding of Austockphoto, we have tried to set up an initiative, which facilitates the support of local Australian photographers. We believe the best outcomes are found when they are approached collaboratively, and we have partnered with these talented artists and involved them every step of the way. Our hope is that Australian consumers will really get on board – not just because it’s nice to keep it local, but because our images are beautiful, authentic representations of everyday life in Australia.

Speaking of affecting social change, is there a particular charity you’d like to support?

We have ideas for supporting Australian organisations in a practical way – beyond financially – but it’s very early days at the moment!

Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.

  1. Porter and Maple
  2. The Design Files
  3. Boheem

Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter.

We’re not on Twitter! Should we be?

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea?

We have marketing ideas which we can only make happen with funding and hands-on-help, so in a way, those three things are pretty closely connected. Yes – if you would like to support us or get involved, we would love to hear from you!

We will of course also be welcoming more talented Australian photographers into the team over time, so, if this is you, feel free to apply via the website.

We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be?

We have come to realise that social media is a necessary evil when it comes to a startup business. We feel like we have been on a steep learning curve with our social media marketing and are always open to more direction in this area. Has anyone out there has cracked the code?!

What’s your favourite restaurant?

Whenever Kass is in Sydney we usually book a table at Hartsyard Newtown – YUM.


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