News Narrative Design III, Final Profile: Exposure 5/1/15
While wandering through an alluringly rustic and decrepit Russian imperial army fortress built in 1920, turned prison in 1929, and retired as a museum in 2002, Luke Beard had no idea that the stunning photos he was taking in Tallinn, Estonia would be his inspiration for the best product he ever created, Exposure. Beard’s employer, Elepath, gave him a Canon Mark III 5D when he came aboard, which allowed Beard to take high quality photos during his trip to Estonia. If Beard never returned to where he was born and raised in the UK to fix his visa then perhaps he wouldn’t have gotten a chance to visit his Estonian friends and shoot the decomposing prison; which held the key to his most successful project to date. Luckily for Beard, the stars aligned and Elepath hired him, setting in motion the events leading up to his brief return to the UK and adventure in Estonia.
Breath taking photos from Luke’s trip to Tallinn, Estonia, that inspired Exposure’s creation.luke.exposure.co
Elepath was founded in 2012 by Jake Lodwick and defines itself as a “creative software company,” according to their website. Elepath nurtures their employees’ ingenuity by actively listening to their ideas for new projects. Since joining the team in June 2013 Beard has enjoyed working for Elepath because of the complete creative freedom he has to invent and develop quality products.
Beard was on Facetime sitting in his mom’s kitchen when he came up with the idea of Exposure. Beard didn’t want to use an existing platform like Tumblr and risk a cat GIF posting on top of his photos, or use Instagram and be limited to only posting one photo. Exposure was the answer to Beard’s yearning for a sufficient platform to showcase his photos from Estonia. Beard quickly developed his idea and pitched it to Elepath. With Elepath’s support and resources at his disposal, Beard and his Elepath co-worker Kyle Bragger built a prototype in August 2013, and continued to work on it until they had a beta version of Exposure ready for testing.
Three hundred photographers and photo professionals tested the beta and gave positive feedback, their responses confirmed that this platform was desperately needed. People wanted to keep using the beta so badly that they offered to pay pre-launch to keep using it. Beard and Bragger’s goal was to make Exposure completely sustainable with very little subscriptions. “We wanted it to be around for a long time so we built it be very efficient and very cheap to run, so basically we’d need very few subscribers to actually support the service,” said Beard. “So we could run out of money tomorrow, and the service would be fine forever.” By successfully relying solely on user subscriptions Exposure could guarantee that ads would never appear on the site. In December 2013 Exposure was launched and users immediately loved how easy and beautiful the platform was.
Lacie Garnes, a photography professor at Parsons, was attracted to Exposure’s transparent and convenient design at first glance. While taking a closer look at some photo stories featured on Exposure, Garnes was impressed by how well the clean design helped tell the photo stories and seamlessly integrated text in between without disturbing the photos. Garnes immediately listed Adobe as Exposure’s biggest competitor. “One is called Adobe Voice and one is called Adobe Slate, both of these are about story telling platforms about combining images and words, and also images and sounds to tell compelling narratives or a documentary or supporting a cause,” said Garnes. Although Adobe has more recognition and a large customer following, it is missing something that Exposure excels in. “Exposure does have a really strong presence linking it to social media, and having that social media aspect inherent in the platform,” Garnes said. The eclectic community of Exposure’s members adds to the story telling platform by increasing the wide range of eyes each story can reach.
Other photo sites like Zenfolio, a portfolio site cluttered with tools, and Smugmug offering many different resources such as printing, hosting, and storage, increase the quantity of available features but not always the quality. Similar photo sites focus on the amount of tools offered instead of focusing on the quality of their apparatus like Exposure does. “Exposure in its current iteration is intentionally a very simple tool to do one thing well, and that’s to tell simple great looking photo narratives,” Beard said. “We don’t try to over reach with features nobody asked for and iterate the tool according to that ethos.”
Exposure’s user base has expanded rapidly since 2013 according to Beard. Now Exposure has more businesses, brands and nonprofits with profiles. “Tons of college football and the NFL as well,” Beard said when asked about new users. “That was surprising actually, because I’m not really a sports guy, and I didn’t really think that game breakdowns or immediately posting a bunch of game photos would be a thing.” Exposure is dedicated to meeting the individual needs of their wide array of users, which is why there are multiple subscription options and a 50% discount for students and educators. Exposure gives all nonprofits free profiles as well. Beard also upgraded my Exposure subscription pro bono so I could experience all of the benefits it has to offer. I must say that I was impressed with the quality of the site compared to other photo story platforms.
Exposure recently created a new, “Tell your BRAND’S STORIES,” section on their website. In response to requests from brands and businesses Exposure added a subscription option for them with new features. Some of the new features specifically designed for brands and businesses include the ability to customize their logo, incorporate third party analytics, and supports custom domain names. Exposure lists all of the features brands and businesses benefit from on their designated page. One of the first companies that signed up for the brands and businesses subscription has two cameras on the national space station and takes photos of the earth. “It blows my little mind that something I started in my mom’s kitchen is now used by a space company,” said Beard.
After talking to Beard and evaluating Exposure I can confidently say that Exposure is breaking ground in the story telling industry with their dedication to producing a quality story telling experience. Beard’s diligence in providing a quality experience is apparent in Exposure’s details and convenience. Their focus on providing a quality platform and incorporating their users’ wants and needs will no doubt keep Exposure ahead of their competitors. “Three months ago we left our parent company and became our own company, which is pretty cool,” Beard said enthusiastically. “We put on our big boy pants and went out into the world as accidental entrepreneurs, really I didn’t plan to start a company, but it happened this way, so it’s cool.” Beard’s humility and innovative thinking has brought Exposure all of the success it’s had so far, and, I believe, will continue to do so.