Stock photography is an interesting business in the art world. The basic concept is to sell your pictures, usually through a distributor or agent company, for a discounted price in mass volume. This volume is either the number of permitted prints the buyer makes or the length of time the buyer licenses the usage of a picture.
It’s this kind of photography, where corporations and sometimes moviemakers will go to find art for various projects. I always think of it as a Wal-Mart for pictures.
Last week I read an article by Michael Zhang on Petapixel about stock photography and the latest troubles that industry was experiencing. I have to admit I’ve always thought about delving into the realm of stock photography.
While I prefer to create and sell fine art, the truth is I can’t upload all of my pictures for some just won’t sell as fine art. They’re fine pictures and are of excellent quality but there is only a limited amount of space available even on an online gallery. Yet, those pictures may satisfy the casual buyer in the form of a corporate brand looking for art in their next magazine ad. So it’s been tempting to place them in the stock photo market.
In the past, the idea of selling your photographic work by the thousands for just a few dollars could bring in quite a substantial amount of exposure and profit for the professional photographer. I mean if you sold a license to have your picture printed in a brochure for to a major company at a rate of $2 per pic for 10,000 copies, that’s $20,000. Not bad.
Then the huge availability of cheap cameras and iphoneographers struck the stock photography world. A great deal of people saw the potential to make some money and saturated the market with copious amounts of cheaply produced photography of various, sometimes dubious, quality. All this is done in hopes that a company would purchase their license. The industry really became more about selling your license than selling your art.
This situation resulted in the mass-production of pictures to combat the glut of pictures available for the undiscriminating eyes of corporate buyers who just wanted a picture. The law of supply and demand soon reared its head. The prices dropped as the competition increased and soon the market flooded. However, the money is only part of this particular equation.
Who are the winners in this situation? Not surprisingly, one would believe it’s the corporations. They have a lot more advertising material available to them. Alas, it’s not so.
The corporations will actually lose out on the picture quality of the photographs available for purchase. Think of all the various quality pictures that companies must sift through to find that one shot they think will serve their purpose. The effect is the same as if everyone opened a restaurant because they had a kitchen. How many bad cooks would you have to suffer through before you found a great one? How much money would you waste on meals before you found that one meal that was perfect?
Don’t forget to join us on Thurs. for Stock Photography: No Longer Fun For Everyone Pt.2. Will it get worse?
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