22 reasons why stock photography is stone cold dead——or maybe not

Morning glow on trees in Lake Yojoa in honduras

Morning glow on trees by lake Yojoa in Honduras

As an entrepreneur running the web shop Hraun Design for my Good Old Company and my wife’s Tales of Travel i subscribe to different post regarding the world of running a web shops and being a startup. One of the regular posts i like getting is from Shopify where we host our shop. This time a round it got me puzzled as it wrote about 22 websites for free photography. As a photographer the headline alone gave me a smack on the head.

Free photography is nothing new. Its been around for a while and some individuals have managed to make a lot of money by giving away their photography they make as a hobby. This they have done mostly by making other products that use these photos, writing books and guides and sell them or  creat an app to sell or sell them selfs as a photo specialist and workshop masters. This is all fine and dandy. You create one thing to sell an other, kind of a con business but for some it functions fine.

What some of those individual on the other hand did was advocate for this and tell young people interested in photography that this was the way to go. This was the best future for their business. I highly  doubt that any one can make a living from giving away the product he or she makes and I have therefor never heard of a photographer that makes a business from this kind of giveaway. Neither can I ever understand why one would give away his images just like that with out thinking who is going to use it and for what purpose. 

What followed the digital revolution was the increased interest of designers in photography and now every other designer has added photographer to its lengthy cv name of skills. These where pretty fast realizing that they where not going to get much money for their images so they started swapping images like children do with baseball cards, mostly to save money in ther startups,  and soon communities where born with web sites where any one and every one could download these images. They where there and why not let people use them if they needed.

One bad aspect of this is Creative Commons and flickr backed by lot of others interested in getting free photography to use for their business. People and sites that rely on income from advertising and subscription and whos livelihood was based on the fact that the more people that gave a way their images the more these companies would earn of money with out doing much or any thing at all. Brilliant way to fame and fortune and this they did for a long long time and still do. Play people like a string puppet. 

Thinking of this, I dont think it is a bad idea, when everybody but those who own money are giving things away to try to make some living from this. Sharing is caring.  Therefore when I read the article in Shoppify blog  it was my first thought. Lets take a look at how they are making money on this. What is the thought behind it and why are people doing this. To me it seems threefold. 1. people that are amateur photographers and just want to be kind, give away their images with out thinking because someone told them this could be cool to do. Secondly are those leaches that are using the ignorance of those people. They are harvesting those free images putting them on a blog like page, surrounded with advertisement in a hope that they will make some money through ads by giving away other peoples things. The sad fact is that they do. And then there is the third part, the designers that use photography giveaway to get traffic to their site and shed a light on their work. This is actually cleaver use of free images. 

Quick glance at the 22 sites mentioned in the Shopify blog show that many of the images are repeated again and again. So if you think you have more thousands of images to choose from on those 22 free photography sites, you might maybe have 500 or 100 but not much more. Worst of all those images that are of real quality are few. Most are blurry flat or to contrasty to be used. Even in a bad blog. But in between you can find very fine and interesting images.

This quick look of mine into some sites does not give me a great conclusion nor confirmation on the death of stock photography, but I know that this is unfortunately just the tip of the iceberg. You can find free photography now all over the place and some time of very fine quality.

What it though tells me is that if you really really really want quality and some thing special you better look at the stock photo sites  or contact some photographers that specialize in such images. For those wanting to get into stock photography this should be encouraging, you can make money from stock photography, but only if you have something special to show of highest quality and in some cases some quirky niche.

You may find 22 or even 50 reasons why stock photography is dead but there is only 1 reason needed for why it is not dead. High quality special artistic images.

Keep on snapping.

IPTC Caption: 
Morning glow on Lake Yojoa, Honduras Lake Yojoa is the largest lake in Honduras with a surface area of 285 square kilometers (110 mi²) and an average depth of 15 meters (50 ft). At an altitude of 700 meters (2,300 ft), it lies in a depression formed by volcanoes. The Lake Yojoa volcanic field consists of Pleistocene to Holocene scoria cones, craters, and lava flows. The west side of the lake is bordered by steep mountains and Santa Bárbara National Park while the east side is adjacent to Cerro Azul Meambar National Park. The lake is situated on the highway that connects the two largest Honduran cities, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. For many people traveling between the cities, the lake serves as a rest area where they can appreciate the view and enjoy the fresh fried fish and other foods that are offered by the restaurants located on its banks. Lake Yojoa is a popular fishing destination and the surrounding area has a rich biodiversity and almost 400 species of birds and 800 plant species have been identified in the region. However, it also is threatened by deforestation, cattle ranching, and development. The settlers of the communities around the lake are dedicated to the cultivation of fruits, vegetables and basic grains. Nevertheless many of these inhabitants earn their living from the sale of fish originating from the lake.

Kristjan Logason is an Icelandic photographer based in Norway at the moment, where he mainly works in fine art and commercial fine art photography.Kristjan owns and runs The art of Icelandic photography.You can contact Krissby phone: +47.916.62749