Stock or Schlock…The Death March of an Industry

By Stephen M. Schaub

Stock photography…seemed like a good idea some years ago. Turn those old jobs and personal works into revenue again and again or take the plunge and just shoot and shoot, amass a huge catalog of images and sell away.

Great, right? NO!

Stock photography has become the muzak of the visual industry. Sure, it fits tight budgets where good imagery is needed (and there is some good stock photography available) but all of this stock imagery used to be actual jobs photographers got hired to shoot…now it is just a click on any stock agency screen…no photographer to hire, just enter your credit card and done. Add into the mix the incredible shrinking day rate for working photographers and stock is a spike through the heart. How can you pay your bills, feed your family and expect to compete with the bargain rates stock imagery sells for?… you can’t. You may disagree with me but- you’re wrong. Want great work, need great imagery- HIRE a photographer!

The Photo Industrial Complex has also screwed photographers (yes again) in this area of day rate and making a living as well. Ever notice how after convincing us to lighten our wallet for the next studio upgrade or latest software gizmo that they then come out with a slimmed down and affordably priced version of the product you just bought…and then proceed to sell it to: your client. Ask any wedding photographer or table-top photographer and they will tell you that digital and small product photography set-ups have killed a large segment of their revenue.

In the the end it is the photographers themselves that are the worst whores and imbeciles because we allowed this to happen in the first place…why? Greed, laziness take your pick…maybe lack of business vision. Yes, stock photography does have it’s place, as do do-it-yourself setups, but nothing can or ever will replace the creative eye of the professional photographer. Amen.

1 Response

  1. Anonymous

    Great photos will be art someday, regardless of the source! History has a way of blurring the vehicle by which art has been delivered. Some great books started out as stories in unheard-of magazines. Many great musical works were for hire. So, stock that is being whored out today could eventually be resurrected in 200 years as a great piece of art. Nobody will care where it came from and ownership will be gone. The problem is the short money now — it does kill the artist’s bank account.

    I guess I feel like visual artists are now experienceing what musicians have been dealing with since the advent of cheap cd technology. Throwaway tech always seems to devalue the artist, at least in the short run.

    I think the real concern is format … how do dou get your work to last 200 years so you can look up from hell and see everyone enjoying it?

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