A reader quotes Clive Thompson:
If everyone reading this article posted their best snapshots online, we could seed hundreds of thousands of free pictures of real things and real people in the real world. The true cure for stock photography is inside your camera phone.
This theory would imply that the reason stock photography is so cliche is because photographers aren’t supplying the right photos. The problem is that advertisers are looking for cliche photos. They are looking for diverse people who look happy, authoritative, or whatever other image the advertiser is trying to convey. Photographers are just supplying what advertisers want.
Even if that weren’t the case, it’s not as simple as posting your photos on Flickr and setting the license. If the photo is for commercial use, as most stock photos are, then you have to have model releases from everybody in the photo. If you don’t, then whoever uses your photos would put themselves at risk for a lawsuit from the people in the photo.
Finally, this whole concept is hugely denigrating to photographers. It takes a tremendous amount of skill to create the kind of photos you see in stock art. A random person with their phone isn’t going to be able to produce similar quality work. It would be like saying that the solution to a broken news media is for everybody to post their independent journalism on Facebook (for free naturally).
Update from another reader:
Did Clive Thompson get paid for his rant about stock photos?
If so, then I have to wonder why he’s so willing to give away photos but not give away words. He completely avoids the ethical issues raised by his suggestion.
The reason stock photos are horrible and also ubiquitous is that people just don’t want to pay photographers, and some photographers have been reduced to playing a numbers game by generating endless generic photos. It reduces photography to a numbers game and is the equivalent of being paid by the click. (I realize some places have to deal with agencies, as the Dish does, but you aren’t posting the genuinely meaningless stock photos that are common elsewhere.) I worked with photographers for years, and I think firing photographers so we can look at stupid stock photos or amateur photos from Flickr was cheap and disrespectful, and suggesting that the unpleasant outcome of devaluing their work is somehow improved by using more free work from amateurs is even more insulting. True, there are many excellent amateur photographers, but there are many excellent amateurs pursuing many artistic hobbies. Thompson says that waiting for new-and-improved-stock photos by the pros will take too long, but that’s only because so many professionals have been dumped. Hire them back.
(Photo: A non-stock image from WLAWS)