LightRocket was founded by Yvan Cohen and Peter Charlesworth in a bid to offer others in the industry a way to manage the "massive tidal wave of imagery", Cohen told Journalism.co.uk.
Cohen and Charlesworth, both photographers themselves, had previously established photo agency OnAsia Images around 12 years ago, which aimed to be "a first-generation digital photo agency that really created opportunities for people who weren't necessarily based in traditional centres of photography", Cohen told Journalism.co.uk, with a focus on photographers in Asia.
"We saw an opportunity in the internet to decentralise," he added.
Despite securing investment, after 10 years the pair were being "buffeted by the turbulence that was affecting the entire industry as a result of digital technology", Cohen said.
"The biggest change was quite simply the volume of imagery that was entering the market and the way in which this tended to favour the larger players who were using large amounts of money to consolidate the industry into very very large photo banks that were convenient for picture buyers."
Cohen explained that, simultaneously, they were starting to look into the area of "media management", and wanted to build their own platform which would respond to the needs of both photographers trying to manage and highlight their work, and photo editors looking for particular images.
After 10 years of running OnAsia Images, the duo decided that the "model wasn't really working as a representative for photographers because licence fees had fallen and we were taking 50 per cent of smaller and smaller amounts".
"The assignment sector had also been affected," Cohen explained, "because as a result of the sheer volume of images available and the ease of access to them, it meant that editors in many cases were able to find images that previously they might have had to have assigned a photographer to create."
This was where LightRocket came in, as a platform which could be "devoted to organising this chaos". As well as the image management side, Cohen said they were keen to continue their connections with their photo editor clients, to in turn help their members make sales, but without LightRocket taking a commission.
Inspired by platforms such as Alamy and PhotoShelter, Cohen said the idea was to "find some little place in between those two, an amalgam of those two aspects".
"So the idea is that here is a platform from which images can be licensed and here is a service that is of sufficient value, that a photographer would be willing to pay a small monthly fee".
The site offers two membership tiers: standard or premium, both of which offer 20GB of storage, while premium members enjoy additional features such as the ability to set their own website domain name and inclusion in the site's contributor directory.
Each week LightRocket sends an email out to its clients with relevant images, based on their stated interest areas, as part of its goal of "creating connections between the clients and photographers".
These emails offer the photo editor the contact details for the relevant photographer "so they can negotiate directly", Cohen added.
In a link up with Getty Images, Cohen said members who sign up for a year-long account with LightRocket are also given the ability to apply to become a Getty contributor.
Like OnAsia Images, LightRocket was originally focused on Asia, but Cohen said they are now "trying to expand beyond that".
"We've now started to break out of the Asian circle a little bit," he said, adding that the service is "seeing photographers coming in from other regions, UK and US notably".
The images currently featured on LightRocket are largely "editorial in nature and often photo-journalistic in approach", Cohen said. "That ranges from covering and reporting on important social issues, to travel stories that are obviously a lot lighter."
He added that while LightRocket is not as focused on the area of commercial and creative images, "we've built into the system the classification tools that would allow members to present their work as such".
In the future Cohen hopes to grow the community engagement side of the platform, such as "the social media aspect of the service", which could see steps such as the introduction of a Facebook Like button for images, or the ability to leave a comment, he said.
"At the moment it has quite a professional face to it," he said, adding that it is currently "designed to please clients". But it may soon look to introduce a "layer that allows a little more interaction".
"That's an evolution that we may take. Just to engage people a bit more."