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Thursday, 01 April 2010


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The problem isn't microstock agencies, nor the photographers who license their work with them. The problem is lazy and/or cheap art directors and editors.

The repeating image isn't a new problem, either. At one web shop I used to work at, we used to track pieces of clip art, stock photos and stock graphics that showed up on multiple websites. Our list of images and photos got to be around seven or eight pages before we got bored and depressed. But at least we had different bits of clip art!

In their relentless drive to reduce costs (their costs, not necessarily what they charge their customers), companies and the vendors that work for them turn photographs into commodities--and by so doing they unwittingly turn themselves into commodities. It seems to me that when your competitors' websites are only one or two clicks away, the last thing you'd want to do is have photos and ad copy that is indistinguishable from theirs.

That image gets a LOT of hits through tineye, a useful image search engine (but it hasn't indexed enough of the web).

The article is nicely written, finding clever ways to poke fun at the various uses.

And in the end, most small businesses won't care much, and most customers won't care much.

The problem with Microstock is that people are lazy enough to download an image that has been downloaded 1000+ times!!

And it works in Opera, too.

The problem is, you can't always explain it's not good for company's image to use a photo that might appear on a zillion other sites. The only thing they see is a dollar sign in front of their eyes. I'm not even talking about particularly bad companies.

BTW, the last comment is funny. To me, that is. I'd really like to know the name of the organisation so I can tell Mr. Milbank whether it was somebody just slapping the photo up or something more pervasive.

That's all well pointed, fine and good.

But so what?

The vast majority of viewers don't care, or ignore the photo anyway.

One side is "it makes you look like morons" -the other side is "it becomes a fiction" - everbody knows it's a bland cookie cutter photo which installed on the web page template in the place that says "bland cookie cutter photo goes here".

[None of this is good for the photo market, but that's of sadly small impact to the world as a whole.]

Yes microstock is a pain in the A to any working professionals hoping to sell one-off unique images to clients. But there's a time and a place for microstock - or other image library business models. Be fair. Fake team photos - implying all these photogenic and nubile thirty-something fit-bods work for your client's company - I agree are NOT one of them. But say I'm a magazine designer (well I am! I am a photographer too and I feel the pain of not doing new work because there's already something on file). My employer doesn't have a huge budget and I need pictures to illustrate a magazine article about - whatever - lets say, Nanjing, China - or a particular breed of dog - or whisky distilleries - (all real examples) the answer is either go with no pictures, or use a non-exclusive library pic. My client is not Time Life, he can't afford, can't wait for, and isn't in the market for Annie Liebowitz or Steve McCurry, or even a regular pro, to go do the location shoot. In this case 'good enough' existing photography even if not professional is a commodity to be bought. We're grateful for it, the publisher is grateful for it, and by and large the readers are savvy enough to know its not unique content shot just for this story.

That's amazing, but what is most amazing to me is that all these different companies are so eager to project an image of overwhelming whiteness.

The TinEye browser plugin found 79 instances of this image.


So what. Doesn't a pro want to license an image as much as he can as opposed to giving someone exclusive rights?

Ian Loveday, you might take a look at Photographers Direct, managed by the abovementioned Chris Barton. It certainly isn't a dollar a photo, but it's not hundreds of dollars for a photo either. The quality is pretty high and images quite diverse.

I admit I have a vested interest, though. I'm a member there. No Nanking photos, unfortunately, nor typical stock photos, so no much luck.

This whole issue will soon be moot, as computer generated graphics including vidio will displace "original" photographs in advertising. No models to pay, no sets, etc. Even the celebrity endorsers will simply sell the "rights" to their image and computers will do the rest.

As digital video advances the sports photographers will be out of jobs as well.
Imagin 4 or 5 ultra high resolution digital video cams in each sports venue providing multiple angle continuous feeds of the action. They can be programed to follow the ball or specific players. Of course the franchise will own and market the images.

May still need editors....... for a while.

Just for fun I used TinEye to search for an image that a major bank had in a banner ad at the top of their home page. No hits, but that's no surprise given that most of the ad was covered in text and a (mostly) featureless background. I downloaded the graphic and cropped to just the picture from the right-hand side of the ad.

The couple that appear so happy about the credit card deal in the banner ad are also, apparently, happy about something at caracasporno.com. Good for them!

I wish I could find it, but there was a similar writeup about a year ago showing a picture that had shown up in an amazing number of place. I remember it was a picture of a female red-haired student wearing a knit cap on a college campus somewhere. It was a very funny piece, but I can't find it anymore. Anyone else remember this?


I wish I could find it, but there was a similar writeup about a year ago showing a picture that had shown up in an amazing number of place. I remember it was a picture of a female red-haired student wearing a knit cap on a college campus somewhere.

Adam, yes, it was another case of photos from one stock photoshoot showing up simultaneously in adverts for multiple clients, including Dell and Gateway. See these articles:




Adam: the picture of the girl in knitted cap was used by both Dell and Gateway for their back-to -school promos in 2004.

Interesting... this reminds me of the 'RickRolling' phenomonon on YouTube recently; where unwitting users were redirected to the infamous Ric Ashley music video "Never Gonna Give You Up".

Perhaps that same thing is happening here, or could; a photo-roll to a common stock picture that, by virtue of its ubiquitousness gets more attention than a run-of-the-mill image would, eventually gaining so much notoriety that it winds up on a national platform like Newsweek, ect.
(I can see this image positioned just below the 'Topeka' logo on the Google April Fool page!)

Dear Jim,

No, that's what an amateur wants.

A pro wants to be paid as much as possible.

Maximizing dollars is not the same thing as maximizing the number of licenses (although they are sometimes coincident).

pax / Ctein

Some of you might remember the girl in the Colorvision Spyder ad. Her picture was used in other ads too.

Then there was that picture of a happy midwest American family from a mommy blog a few years ago that ended up in a store window in the Czech Republic, if I remember correctly. Was featured in TOP at the time.

Entertainingly enough, I forwarded Chris Barton's article to my fiancee who is a photographer at a small photography company in Boston. She showed it to her boss who said "Oh yeah, my friend is using that same picture on his Boston-something-or-other web site." This picture clearly gets around!

We're all photographers here, right? Let us turn our attention to the subject of the photograph. All those perfect people. What was their reward for being in a stock photo? A one time hourly modeling fee?

I am not in that world, so I don't have a clue how that works. Can someone educate me?

Yes Ctein...that's what a pro wants. But if he maximizes income through multiple sales, or through the sale of a one-time, exclusive profit, he's achieved his goal. It's not one or the other. It's a combination of both.

I know that I certainly don't want to give anyone exclusive rights. That's ending the profit potential right there for any particular image.

As Don illustrates in his post, the example image has made the photographer an approximate $25,000 profit...through multiple sales.

Remember this is stock photography. For better or worse generic images are the norm.

En informed opinion "...keep in mind if you’re accepting $1 for what a professional would earn $20, you’re leaving $19 in the pockets of the middlemen who are rolling you like a sucker."
The entire text: http://claytoncubitt.tumblr.com/post/484836506

The bottom line is that a bunch of companies make money/save money on the back of the photographers and the models who get little/nothing in return. Which draws me to think about internet bussiness models and Chris Anderson and Free (for the little guys, so that the rich get richer) and a whole etc.

I don't know about the particular models in the particular photos under discussion, but generally, if you hire some models, they get whatever hourly fee is agreed on, you take pictures, and they sign a model release. Lots of examples of ordinary commercial model releases can be found online, but they're extremely broad. The photographer(s) can then sell the photos as often as they want to anywhere that wants to buy them.

Mind you, for a group of 5 people at normal rates, you're likely to be into a few hundred dollars very quickly. But if you have a variety of settings to hand, you can get quite a few photos to sell as stock out of one session.

a new funny stock (?) photography incident.
a swedish dairy industry uses a photograph of a greek to promote a "turkish recipe" yoghurt.
the greek site i found it:
and after a google search a swedish one:
grigoris (from Greece)

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