Frameright focuses on the right angle
We’ve all seen failed automatic photo crops: heads left out, just legs, or simply bad composition. Finnish company Frameright was born out of the urge to give photos the shape they deserve.
A few years ago, then-photography student Marina Ekroos was a tiny bit annoyed every day. Press photographers took excellent photos, but the way they could be seen online didn’t do them justice. Automatic cropping destroyed the composition, and a thumbnail of a great photograph often destroyed the point of the picture completely.
“It felt like all rules of visual journalism were broken at once,” Ekroos recalls.
She mentioned her concern to her friend, IT consultant Ilkka Järstä. He pointed out that the automatic tools of publishing systems are very inflexible, so even if publishers wanted to customise their imagery, it would often be impossible.
Keeping busy with her studies, Ekroos was certain someone else was just as frustrated as she was and a solution was in the making somewhere. But after over a year had passed since their first conversation, nothing had still happened.
Järstä and Ekroos decided it was time for a change. They pitched the idea to Uutisraivaaja Media Innovation Challenge by the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation in 2017 – and won.
“At that point, we both had careers and other things going on,” Ekroos explains. “However, winning the challenge validated our idea and proved we had a point. We dropped everything else and decided to focus on Frameright.”
Responsive flexibility on the go
Frameright’s aim is to help publishing houses and online retailers display their imagery properly with a browser-based application. The app can be integrated into content and digital asset management systems, and it ensures that the publisher always knows what their content will look like on different platforms.
Soon after the win in Finland, Ekroos and Järstä found an accelerator programme in Hamburg, Germany. At the moment, they’re developing the product further, with both Finnish and European clients on board and a funding round coming up. Later, the team plans to hit further markets, too, as the solution is easily scalable and suits various purposes.
Ekroos notes that as there are billions of photographs published online every day, companies need all the help they can get to stand out from the visual noise.
“For example, both in e-commerce and media, you won’t attract customers and viewers if your images look unattractive,” she says. “Frameright brings the flexibility that enables making photography responsive in different image sizes and platforms.”
Ekroos describes this as new kind of control.
“We refer to Frameright as non-destructive. It’s possible to create a new version of the photo on the go, and, although artificial intelligence will help in cropping the image sensibly, a human hand always has the last word. It’s a hybrid of technology and human control.”
A photo is a story
As automatic cropping has led to a wild wild west of visual online publishing, Ekroos is saddened how people have grown numb to bad-looking photography.
She also emphasises that photography is not just showing what is being talked about; it’s also about composition and dynamics, the story and the ‘feel’ of the photograph. The same applies to writing; Ekroos thinks that having an inflexible photo publishing system is like having a text editor that prohibits the writer from spelling correctly.
“If someone writes inconsistently or unclearly, that simply isn’t okay.”
With Frameright, she wants to push for better visual content and journalism, the ultimate goal being to see Frameright being a part of all images that are published digitally.
By training, Ekroos is still a photographer. Isn’t she at all annoyed that instead of taking incredible shots herself, she focuses on making those of others look better?
“Not at all, never,” she responds laughingly. “What drove me to photography was a passion for visual culture. If this is the way I can have an impact on it, I’m happy to do it for others.”
Text: Anne Salomäki