‘A picture paints a thousand words’ is a very true saying. That is the reason photographs have been used as an essential ingredient of newspaper stories almost since photography was invented. Every day millions of photographs are used by the print and internet media. They are used for news coverage, to illustrate magazine articles and in the multi-billion pound advertising industry. This demand for images has to be met - that is where the stock image libraries play their part.
Stock image libraries
Stock photography and the supply and licensing of images is now a huge business that has been steadily growing since the 1950s. Although much of it was not originally shot for that purpose, the work of many famous photographers of the last century is now contained in image libraries. These iconic images are worth a great deal of money to the stock library industry, as there is a constant demand for licences to use them in all sorts of media.
Countless print and internet publications now exist across the world and they have a voracious appetite for pictures of all types. Increasingly they use stock libraries to supply photographs that they print or upload onto the internet. Many photographers spend a large part of their time feeding this need by submitting large quantities of photographs of all kinds to stock image libraries. This is an important extra source of income for them, over and above their commissioned work.
There are now hundreds of picture libraries offering a whole range of services for their clients. Some of these still store images in the conventional way by preserving and cataloguing negatives, slides and prints, whilst others are completely internet based using digital storage and direct downloading by customers. Therefore, if a customer needs a particular image he or she can ring a conventional image library or go online and search the database of one or more online providers. Web designers and picture editors love the huge choice, convenience and flexibility that affordable stock photos offer them in their daily work.
Why commission a photographer?
The use of stock images can dispense with the headache of commissioning photographers and all the expense that this process entails. Setting a shoot, choosing models, sorting out transport and accommodation can prove to be prohibitively expensive, whereas the use of stock illustrations can be a way of cutting down costs. This is not always possible or appropriate of course - especially in fashion and product photography.
Specialist stock libraries
The general stock photograph is used as a generic rather than a specific illustration, but some careful research will reveal a whole host of image agencies providing photographs on a huge range of very specialized subjects.
All images that are published in some way should be paid for. Not to do so comprises theft of copyright and also deprives the professional photographer of his hard-earned income. The inclusive fee that is paid to stock image agencies means that licensing negotiations are far simpler than independent price and rights negotiations with individual photographers.
Sarah White, a freelance writer with an interest in photography, wrote this article. She’s currently promoting the use of affordable stock photos, as a means for amateur photographers to make extra money.