While the smartphone has given us all the camera to take the perfect flatlay shot of our cafe breakfast or home office to put on social media, it turns out that there’s more to creating a beautiful image than simply arranging things neatly and hoping for the best (yes, that is my strategy).
When done well such an image can rack up the likes on Instagram or the pins on Pinterest and turn a product or brand into the next big thing – so to help brands create them is Australian outfit Pretty Squares.
Founded by Katie Jane Sadgrove, Pretty Squares is, as she explained it, a “marketplace of image makers who create pretty squares”. Put simply, brands turn to the platform to find a creative who can style and photograph their products for use in their marketing, with Pretty Squares matching their brief to the right creative.
The idea for Pretty Squares evolved out of an interior and product styling business Sadgrove was running, Original Residence. Through this, Sadgrove started connecting with other stylists through platforms like Instagram and realised they were all facing the same problems.
“Brands wanted affordable custom images and fast. Each of us had the ability to produce high quality content that brands were wanting, however we needed a united platform to attract these brands,” she said.
“We also had limited resources to take on employees and wanted to remain freelance, so we felt the best option was to work together as a collective image making hub.”
From here, Pretty Squares was developed. It began as a simple ecommerce website, Sadgrove explained, which could be tested and adapted as needed; however, the startup soon found brands weren’t using the site because they needed a tax invoice in order to make payments.
Pretty Squares in turn moved to an online booking form, manually generating quotes within 24 hours.
In its current iteration, the platform works by having a quote manually generated and sent to the brand. Once accepted and a deposit paid, the brand is sent a creative brief to complete and return, with this in turn then matched to a creative, or image maker, to fulfil the brief.
The image maker is sent the brand’s product and gets styling, with all images reviewed by Pretty Squares before they are sent to the client.
“It has been a challenging and an interesting process since much of what we had to do was exploring new horizons in creative technology. Thinking outside the ‘square’ of contemporary advertising was the real challenge,” Sadgrove said.
“Both creating the vehicle and then attracting clients to a new mindset meant providing an exciting, economic and speedy product with one eye on technological developments to ensure currency. Hence a compelling web page plus personal and expedient interface with clients became the essence of our approach.”
The platform has onboarded around 150 image makers, finding them through Instagram, creative agencies and recommendations before taking them through a screening process.
“We look for diversity in our image makers in not only backgrounds and locations, but also style aesthetic; it’s important our photographers are also professional stylists and can create a variety of looks that will appeal to the audience of our diverse portfolio of clients,” Sadgrove said.
On the client side, meanwhile, Sadgrove said Pretty Squares is targeting brands through their advertising and PR agencies, as well as their offices.
Packages start at $120 per image, with a deposit taken before work begins on the image, which will be delivered to the brand within 10 days. Pretty Squares charges a fee for each transaction.
Pretty Squares recently took part in the ELEVACAO program for women-led businesses, with Sadgrove wanting to delve deeper into the startup world and connect with other founders.
“I needed to benchmark our ideas and methodology and gain the synergies of expert mentors. For example, the founder and CEO of the program, Marisa Warren, gave us invaluable tips on how to perfect our pitch and I have since met with other startup founders who are now my mentors,” she said.
The startup bears a number of similarities to Queensland outfit Creatively Squared, which has gone through the Collider accelerator program run by QUT Creative Enterprise Australia and also looks to connect brands to visual content producers.
While acknowledging businesses “who are doing great work in the social media content creation space and developing new talent”, Sadgrove believes Pretty Squares is unique in the work that it’s doing.
“Our point of difference is that our work and licensing encompasses digital as well as print channels and our image makers are the best in the business. These image makers rival traditional formats because they are multi-skilled and can do it all,” she said.
As it looks to grow further, Pretty Squares is currently working on a new platform to automate processes such as quote generation, and is also exploring how to expand its service offering.
Sadgrove said, “It will be a time for consolidation, ongoing review and exploration. Our guarantee of quality to our growing stable of brands and our dedication to supporting creative freelancers will remain a prime objective.”
Had enough of all the startup buzzwords? So have we. That’s why we’re asking the startups we chat to to send us a video where they pitch their business in a way that’s easy enough for even the most technophobic of grandparents to understand:
Image: Katie Jane Sadgrove. Source: Supplied.