February 26, 2017 5 min to read

Stock Photography: A Graphic Designer’s Friend

Category : Must-read

Changing Trends in Photography and Design

In the field of Graphic Design, finding the right “look” and “feel” is everything. Designers works tirelessly sketching thousand of thumbnails, an idea roughly drawn, to find that perfect idea, that perfect look and feel. A picture can do that. A perfect picture can convey exactly what a designer need. There are two ways in which they can get that perfect picture: one, hire a photographer; two, buy a stock photograph. The first option is often expensive and time consuming. With the current market and technology available, a stock photograph can be a Graphic Designer best friend. As Tom Vanderbilt put it fittingly, “And that, I found, is the joy of the new breed of stock photo sites -getting an image you wouldn’t have know how to find, or even know what you wanted.” Stock photography is one of the best tools for Graphic Designers to find what they need quickly and cheaply.

Stock Photographs used to be of very poor quality. Graphic Designers only take them on as a last resort. Originally, images from stock are secondhand. Photographers send left over photos from previous commissions to stock agency to make a quick buck. As time progresses, things change. At the beginning of the 1990s, when times are hard and the country is at the brink of Depression, many companies can’t afford to hire photographers. They turn to stock images. With more clients, competition rises. With competitions, demand for better images also rise, and with demand came supply.

Such is the ways of a capitalistic society!

Photographers keep sending in better and better quality images to stock agencies. To date, photographers only send their best images to stock agencies.

Stock agencies are the people that market and sell images sent to them by various photographers. Traditionally, stock images come in catalogues. The images are categorized and subcategorized for easy usability. When clients or Designers find the image they like, they will then call up the stock agency and negotiate a deal. Photographers can get royalty with every image sold. Naturally, the prices of the images will varied because of the variety in quality. That changes quickly, however. Stock agencies soon present royalty free images. That means that clients can buy rights to images and do what they please. In the past, clients can only lease images for one specific use. With this, clients can rid of themselves with the thousands of dollars and restrictions that come with a commissioned work. As with all things, quality comes into play. Royalty free images sell for less. Quality is also less than the rights protected ones. Still, as with all things, royalty free now also has as much quality and value.

“Few businesses were so perfectly suited for the new medium as stock”. With the internet, getting stock images is easier than ever. No more browsing through catalogue after catalogue. No more having to call and wait for days for the transparency to come in the mail. Now, they can be downloaded directly from the internet and with perfect quality. The internet is made for stock photography agency.

There are two stock agency giants on the internet; Corbis and GettyImages. One of them is owned by the great Bill Gates. Competition in stock photography is higher than ever. Agencies now force photographers to pay to be in their catalogue. It takes time to bring in any revenue to photographers. Internet is now accessible to everyone, and anyone can learn to use and manipulate it to their advantage. Photographers now can even set up their own stock library for all to use. Even then, breaking into the stock game is very difficult.

Although things may be difficult for photographers, or specifically stock photographers, things cannot be any easier for Graphic Designers. As more and more stock agencies launch themselves onto the internet, searching for the right image cannot be any easier. The most fun tool out there is the search tool. Type in anything and something will come up. Sometimes the results will surprise you and take your thinking into a whole other direction. That is what Graphic Designers need something that will make their brain work, something that will spark a new idea or reinvent an old idea.

The fees part may stump people. Why pay so much for a picture? The answer is quality. Every good picture should generate a feeling. Every good picture should say something. Not just say, it should shout something. That is why designers will look through a thousand pictures of “guys lounging on the beach” or “little babies crying”. Put them all side by side, every one of them should be different in some way because they all say something different. The other reason is that these images come in the right format and resolution. It is very difficult to find non-professional image that come in the perfect 300 dpi TIFF file in which Graphic Designers need all their images to be. Anything hard to find are things that need to be paid for.

These may not be so hard to find but yes they have to be paid for.

Quantity is also a big key. There are thousands, if not millions, of stock images out there. Even then, it is not enough. To find the right image that say the right thing is hard. It is a task unto itself. There maybe millions of images out there, but only one of them says things designers need them to say. With quantity comes something we all like, choices. People always like choices. It gives them a sense of power. It entices them. It makes them happy. It makes the product more theirs. Thus, with quantity, designers get to choose between one and the others. Their clients will get to also if the designers choose to do so. The power to choose is the greatest power of all.

Another quality is that stock images are very simple. “Successful stock photographs have one strong characteristic in common: simplicity”. These photographs must say what they need to say in the simplest way. They can have hidden meanings. They can be powerful. They can be anything they want. They only have to be simple. Designers need photographs to be simple so they can manipulate it in many ways. Simple photographs, which is not cluttered with intricacies, are a designer best friend. Simple photographs mean an easier and quicker time for designers to do their jobs. Simple photographs mean no late night excursions to fix design complications to meet deadlines. Simple photographs are the way to go.

With competition and technology on their hands, stock agencies have made things easier for Designer. Stock images provide Designers their strongest tool easily at hand. They bring the best quality images in the best form and present it to designers. With things so simplified, Graphic Designers now can do what they do best: design.


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