Shoot! the Day Brings Stock Photo Angst to the Fore


On Sunday I moderated an ad agency panel for Shoot! the Day, a day-long photographer conference put together by PhotoShelter.

A few things I picked up amidst coleslaw mountains and sassy stock:

  • ADs and art buyers depend pretty heavily on stock photography, but feel like they've seen everything the industry has to offer -- including its paltry selection of models. "It's become a running joke," said Molly Aaker of Unit7. "'There's that same girl, except with her hair up!'"

  • Diversity is an issue, but it can't be solved just by changing the color of people's faces. Belinda Lopez of StrawberryFrog wants to see more "documentary-style" imagery -- people in natural poses, expressing real emotions, and doing things a person in that situation and/or of that ethnicity is likely to do.

  • Everybody seems crazy about PhotoShelter -- which is probably why they attended the first annual Shoot! the Day in the first place.


Getty is currently the Goliath of the stock photo industry. It has the most material, the best search engine and the widest photographic scope, but photographers take issue with its licensing practices, particularly in the digital realm. (Licensing a photo for digital use can be cheaper than licensing it for multiple instances of print use.) I often heard variations on this lament: "What if a page is viewed 100,000 times?" The client gets more mileage out of an image, but doesn't incur additional use fees.

PhotoShelter is targeted specifically to independent photographers. Its casual vibe, low barriers to entry and photographer-friendly profit-sharing model makes it popular among non-professional shutterbugs, increasing a client's likelihood of finding unique and candid imagery. Photographers keep most of the profit and can tag images themselves, something Getty doesn't currently allow them to do.

Good rule of thumb: tag generously. Art directors seek photos for all kinds of weird reasons: "brown hair," "elf shoes," "big afro." Be sure to tag gender, ethnicity, activity, and items, animals or clothing. (For a recent project, Wanda Lau of Greater Than One complained she couldn't find an adequate shot of a kid in a red cape anywhere.)


My panelists added that PhotoShelter's community-oriented site and blog also made them feel connected to the photographers -- people that they casually identify with, because hell, we all like taking pictures.

"For the first time, I'm starting to follow photographers I like," said Belinda. This gratified the audience, which mostly consisted of freelance photogs that would appreciate a little more one-on-one with clients.

Podcasts of the panels will appear on PhotoShelter sometime in the next coupla weeks.

UPDATE, 7/24: After this article appeared, Getty sent Wanda a lightbox loaded with kids in red capes. You know the big guns are scared when they start taking Adrants seriously. =P

Image credit for the panel photo: AdWeek.

by Angela Natividad    Jul-23-08   Click to Comment   
Topic: Agencies, Events, Good, Opinion   

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Greetings Angela,

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Posted by: Dailey Pike on July 23, 2008 2:49 PM