About Stock Photography

Don't panic. This is not a lecture on the history of stock photography, but a few words of explanation may help set the scene for what happened in April 2000 when the first microstock image library was born, signaling the beginning of a revolution in the stock photography industry.

You don't need to be told that we live in an image-intensive world. Just step in to any newdealer's office and flick through a few magazines and books. Nearly every modern written publication is filled with images—and in the past few years, the Internet has added a whole new dimension to this insatiable demand for pictures of every kind (Figure 1.1).

Most of the photos you see in books, magazines, and on the Internet were not shot specifically for a particular publication but were selected by picture editors or designers from available photographs that were in stock and ready for purchase. Of course, some images are shot to order. High-end advertising campaigns use photographers working under the direction of advertising agencies. Newspapers need newsworthy images to fill their pages.

But what if you need an image of a happy couple on a beach, and it happens to be midwinter? Well, the answer is simple! Just spend megabucks on flying the photographer, his or her kit, an assistant, the happy couple, and an art director and assistant to a tropical paradise. Will the community magazine that needs that beach shot be happy to pay the cost? I don't think so!

Or perhaps you are Web designer and you want a picture of a group of businesspeople in a boardroom. I doubt that you will be filled with joy at the prospect of hiring the models and the photographer, renting a boardroom, and arranging for lighting. But even assuming you can stretch to the considerable expense of doing so, you still might not get the shot you have in mind.

FIGURE 1.1 We live in a world with an insatiable appetite for images, as this good microstock image helps to illustrate. © Jozsef Hunor Vilhelem/ Fotolia.com

FIGURE 1.1 We live in a world with an insatiable appetite for images, as this good microstock image helps to illustrate. © Jozsef Hunor Vilhelem/ Fotolia.com

Of course, you do not have to go to the expense and trouble of arranging a photo shoot for most image requirements any more than you need to hire an author to write a novel specifically for you to read on vacation. For both of these examples, there are suitable images ready for purchase at the click of a button from stock photography agencies and, specifically, from the new microstock agencies.

Of course, this sounds simple on paper, but how easy is it really in practice? To prove the point, I set myself the task of finding, within 2 minutes each, suitable images for the happy couple on the beach and the business team in a boardroom examples that I mentioned above—and here they both are, as Figures 1.2 and 1.3, sourced from among many available images in microstock libraries that might fit the bill.

I might have had similar success looking for images in a more traditional library such as Corbis, Getty, or Alamy, but the price

FIGURE 1.3 Businesspeople in a boardroom. As with Figure 1.2, this image was found in a few moments. Although not perfect for all uses, this image is a good stock image and has a number of useful qualities we'll cover in more detail later in the book. How many can you see? © iStockphoto

would have been much higher. The images in Figures 1.2 and 1.3 cost around two dollars each. I used iStockphoto for this search, but my research shows that I could have used other microstock libraries.

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