Sony is an innovative leader in digital camera technology, holding its position as one of the world’s largest camera manufacturers for over forty years. Many highly acclaimed photographers and videographers use Sony cameras and lenses to capture incredible moments and produce stunning images. By continually pushing the boundaries of digital imaging technology, Sony supports creatives seeking to make their professional photography dreams a reality.
8 min read
Canto helps Sony expand the Alpha Universe
Consolidate images and videos submitted by Alpha Universe ambassadors into a centralized, easily searchable library.
With Canto, Sony has a centralized library of ambassador assets ready to fuel inspiring content that engages aspiring photographers with Sony products.
Goal: Centralize Sony’s Alpha Universe content
Sony’s digital imaging division works closely with independent ambassadors across Europe to showcase the company’s wide range of cameras, lenses, and photography accessories. These ambassadors review new products, share images they’ve taken, and provide insights about their techniques and equipment choices for a broad audience of hobbyists and fellow professionals. Sony shares this content on its Alpha Universe platform, publishing several stories each month to highlight photos and videos shot with a variety of Sony equipment.
Tim Stavrinou, the Digital Imaging Content Marketing Manager for Alpha Universe, sees tremendous value in empowering Sony’s image ambassadors to tell the stories behind their work. “Alpha Universe provides aspirational content of our ambassadors explaining how they shoot and why they shoot on Sony, whether it’s the quality of the lenses or the features of the cameras,” he says. “They’re all professionals. At the end of the story, we provide links to the product pages so people can buy directly from the Sony store.”
With over 100 influential ambassadors, however, Sony’s digital imaging division was receiving hundreds of images and videos each week from various sources, including the ambassadors themselves and from country managers across Europe. The team was running out of room to store all that incoming content and had no system in place for finding it quickly.
“I was filling up hard drives and thinking – this is crazy. I needed a central location where I could find images very quickly, and make it accessible to colleagues who are often asking me for images,” Tim recalls. “Initially, I put all the images in one folder and searched from there. That worked fine when I had 500 images, but as soon as I went to a couple thousand, it just ground to a halt.”
Enter Canto: Consolidating Sony ambassador image assets
Fortunately, Tim had a good idea of where to find a solution. In a previous marketing role, he’d used Canto’s on-premises digital asset management (DAM) tool. A quick internet search brought him to Canto’s cloud-based DAM platform. Within 48 hours, he’d experienced a hands-on demo and immediately recognized that Canto was the DAM platform Sony needed to manage Alpha Universe’s content needs.
“I was completely sold,” he says. “I wanted everything in one place and I could see that it was going to let us work out our own structure for tagging and folders.”
Canto provided a single source of truth for all the image and video assets pouring in from Alpha Universe ambassadors. Rather than storing content across multiple external drives or complicated cloud platforms, Tim could simply upload everything into the Canto library and use its powerful DAM tools to structure and distribute content.
Implementation proved quick and easy. After a two-week trial that involved working out a structure for tagging images and organizing them into folders for easy reference, Sony seamlessly transitioned into a full license without having to reupload any assets. With Canto in place, Tim could easily upload all incoming content into a centralized platform that could scale with demand thanks to powerful organization and search features.
Image metadata fit for marketing
Sony recognized that metadata is an important component of the digital assets they work with. They need to prove that Alpha Universe content was shot using Sony equipment. “I can never accept images from ambassadors that have had the metadata removed because they can tell me it’s shot on a Sony, but I need to be able to prove it,” Tim says. “We have to have that metadata intact and accessible.”
The highly technical nature of that raw metadata, however, makes it impractical for searchability and marketing use. If someone did not know the specific naming conventions of the products being used, they would not be able to enter a camera model name or lens length to pull up every image shot with that equipment.
After Tim explained the challenge, custom metadata mapping was set up to automatically extract technical metadata from their images and instantly translate it to consumer-friendly product names. Using easy-to-search metadata means the team can quickly find and use product-specific assets in blogs, stories, and other content where the customers will discover and purchase those respective products they desire in the Sony Store.
“That was probably our biggest ‘must have’,” Tim recalls. “We got some extremely useful help to set that up. It’s now working beautifully. I can quickly go in and say, ‘Show me everything taken on this camera and this lens’ and Canto just pulls it up instantly.”
Streamlining content requests
One of the biggest pain points of the previous system was managing frequent requests from other departments for content. When Sony’s product managers or media team needed images, Tim had to drop whatever he was doing, find the image, and share it using a separate file transfer platform.
“I was spending about half an hour a day, which doesn’t sound like much, but the requests would always be super urgent and would always come when I was right in the middle of something,” Tim says. “It was a pain. Especially when I was away.”
To alleviate this recurring bottleneck and the pain of frequent task-switching, Tim set up a Canto Portal that allows internal Sony users to browse the library of approved contents and make a request to download assets. This self-service approach greatly streamlined internal content requests and distribution without sacrificing control.
“We’re now in a position to roll it out across all our European subsidiaries,” Tim says. “Every country is going to have people with access to the internal portal, which we call SAIL (Sony Ambassador Image Library).”
Tim’s team is now exploring innovative ways to use Canto Portals, with a goal to share a curated library of their best 500 images publicly on Alpha Universe this year. This will allow visitors to browse the inspirational set of digital assets, but also use custom filters to see images taken with a specific lens or camera.
Finding content faster with Canto’s smart tags
Although the new metadata tagging system made it easy to locate images, Tim quickly discovered that there was an even easier way to search for specific content. “My favorite feature is the AI tagging,” he says. “I’ve probably spent hours testing it. I had so much fun trying different keywords, and it was always accurate.”
Canto’s AI-driven smart tag system automatically recognizes key elements from images to add metadata based on their actual content. This is especially useful when certain types of images or themes are needed for use in other media or marketing channels. Rather than manually scanning through images in search of those elements, a quick search can bring up every asset that features them.
“It’s superb,” Tim exclaims. “Sometimes, we’ll get a request for an image for a summer campaign, and I may want a lovely green lawn and a solitary tree or something like that. I can put this stuff in, and Canto will find images for me instantly. To be able to punch a phrase into a search box and have the images there for me is just brilliant.”
It’s a complete relief that I know where everything is, everything is immediately accessible, on a super-quick platform. I can always rely on Canto being there in the background like a big shopping trolley with everything I need in it.
Results: Expanding the reach of the Alpha Universe
Canto has allowed Tim’s team to ramp up and use their exceptional library of user-generated images because it’s so much easier to locate and share the right content.
“This year, we’re going to be publishing about twice as much as we did last year, so having the extra time is super useful. It’s a complete relief that I know where everything is, everything is immediately accessible, on a super-quick platform. I can always rely on Canto being there in the background like a big shopping trolley with everything I need in it.”
From the initial demo to the customized metadata implementation, the integration process proved to be incredibly smooth and has streamlined internal creative processes significantly.
“Within the business, it’s been a huge improvement,” Tim says. “I can’t praise the Canto team enough. Fantastic service from start to finish. Every time I’ve asked a question, it’s been answered quickly. I feel we were listened to, because we had specific requests and they were solved within three hours.”
With Canto in place, Sony is well positioned to continue adding ambassadors to grow the Alpha Universe and its influence. Even with thousands of images on hand, marketing and product teams can quickly locate exactly what they need using precision search tools assisted by AI recognition. Canto’s Portals and content distribution features have also streamlined workflows and content requests to keep projects moving at the speed of Sony’s growing business.