Great column by James Rainey, who writes about the media, in the LA Times today. http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/arts/la-et-onthemedia22-2010jan22,0,4822231.column

The gist of the column will come as little surprise to those of us producing images for magazines and newspapers. The trend emerged years ago and was energized, to say the least, by the dominance of Getty Images. Getty’s ability to drive the model for licensing was one key aspect in the continued decline of prices for stock photography. Granted there is no debating the impact Getty has on the industry, but as Rainey’s column aptly points out, it’s not the only factor contributing to the struggles of creative professionals to make a living licensing their intellectual property.

As technology evolved in the past decade,  high end digital cameras for the average consumer became commonplace. Throw in the development of sophisticated mobile devices that take video and photographs and you have a society of content providers AND the platforms for them to easily distribute their images. Keep in mind, it was barely 15 years ago when publishers of any kind would request images from photo agencies and then wait a day or two before FedEx delivered a set of transparencies. In other words, the archival and distribution platform was simply not available to the consumer or amateur photographer. Now, publishers have instant access to photographs and the consumer can now participate in the archiving and distribution of creative content. Facebook, Twitter, My Space, Flickr, Snapfish, etc, etc, are all platforms that have evolved into places where magazines and newspapers will look for content. Remember, though, all of those are driven mainly by amateurs, not professionals, although it’s widely advised for pros to have a presence on the social network sites, thus giving credence to the power of social networks and their model for distribution of content.

When amateurs and young, naive pros looking to enter the market are willing to essentially give away their work for the thrill of being published, well, it doesn’t take an economist to see the affect that would have on the market for stock photography. Again, combined with the fact that the technology now allows for anyone to produce high resolution, in-focus images with very little training, transmit those images to a free content sharing site and the market for professional quality content will obviously take a hit. And we have…….

Having said all that, I still believe there will always be a market for high end, professional imagery. The general malaise of the publishing industry will indeed continue a push toward lower prices and the acceptance of “good enough” images, but as the photo agency, Aurora, will attest, there will always be a market for top quality imagery.

A woman with a fish she caught in the Owens River near Benton Crossing in Mammoth Lakes, CA, before it is released back into the water.

Todd Bigelow Photography
0 comments on “Stock Photography: Where Are We Going?
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  2. ChrissyOne says:

    While it’s true that advances in technology have given a much larger audience of people the ability to create good images, it’s interesting that it’s done almost nothing to actually make them better photographers.
    I think we’re still in a quality trough, the tail end of an era where everyone *throught* they were a photographer, just because they can make a decent photo themselves. The market responded by thinking these people were photographers, too. And even if the photos were kinda lousy, at least they were CHEAP. And Good Enough.
    Imaging in general went into the shitter. But it seems to be turning around. Good photographers and artists are pushing ahead with digital and starting to do things we couldn’t do with film and paper, using new technology to its fullest potential instead of trying to get it to emulate old technology. Better interfaces are going to accelerate this, but that’s only beginning.

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