Stock photography is fantastic for picture-users. Photographs can now be obtained for a little as a dollar which enables anyone to acquire and use a cheap photo for just about anything. We now live in a time where photos can be obtained for less than a pack of gum.
The stock photography business is totally shitty for photographers. Photographs can now be obtained for a less than it cost to produce them. Any photographer who thinks they can earn any significant income from stock in the 21st century is a fool.
The stock photography industry has been destroyed by corporatists and amateurs, aided and abetted by moron photographers with no business-sense and toothless ‘professional organizations,’ like ASMP.
Before the corporatization of stock photography, in the pre-internet days, the industry was run by and for photographers. The quality of the work was much higher than it is now because stock pictures were outtakes from professional assignments. Higher fees were charged as well, which reflected the cost of production of professional images, and clients’ rights were protected as well. Now, mostly, images are royalty-free and can be used by anyone, at anytime, for anything. Conceivably this could mean the exact same image can be used simultaneously by two clients in the same industry. And the work is of much poorer quality now because any wanker with a digital camera can upload images to a microstock website. The choices of shit stock photography is deep!
Look at the stock photography business model: The seller gets the photos for free from photographers meaning the seller has no investment in production; all production costs are borne by the photographer. Images are searched, stored and delivered electronically thereby requiring very little staffing. The seller can sell (license) the image for as little or as much as they like. And the seller can remit as much or as little as they like back to the photographer. From the sellers’ side this is brilliant, from the photographers’ side it’s nothing but a way to work harder and earn less. I’d venture a guess that if this business model was proposed to a Harvard Business student they’d think it was pretty cool so long as you don’t make the pictures.
The stock picture sellers play to stupid photographers egos; so many ‘photographers’ just want to be ‘published.’ So what? You won’t get a credit-line because, if there even is one, it’ll go to the picture seller and not you, the actual photographer who shot the photo. If you find the published photo you won’t be able to point to your name on the tearsheet. Stock photographers are anonymous, so it’ll do nothing for your career. And that dollar you got won’t even buy you a pack of gum.
So if you’re a moron who shoots a lot of photos that are meaningless and have no value, there’s a place for you in stock photography. If you’re smart, and don’t want to devalue your work and still want to shoot ‘stock’ pictures, I suggest you photograph cattle, because that kind of ‘stock’ is certainly better than the alternative.