In recent decades society has become increasingly visually-oriented. If a picture was worth a thousand words in 1920, it is now worth many thousand words. Today's consumer is more likely to be a "viewer" than a "reader," relying less on the printed word than on pictorial images for entertainment and instruction. Photography is one of the most prominent means of interpreting and disseminating information. The stock photography industry has responded to this demand, and even at this moment thousands of images are being bought for publication.
Who are these clients? Advertising Agencies use stock photography in national consumer ads, which appear in publications circulated among the general public; and trade ads, which appear in publications directed at a particular industry. Because the print run for these ads tend to be large, most images are handled with rights managed licensing agreements. Corporations use images in creating their annual reports, in brochures, and in internal magazines. The Editorial Market is probably the biggest and most diverse group of clients, ranging from top magazines such as National Geographic and Sports Illustrated to the thousands of smaller publishing houses which produce regional and special interest magazines. It also includes the publishers of trade books, textbooks, and newspapers.
While the top houses probably use staff photographers, the smaller operations are continually revising, updating, and putting together new layouts, new issues, new editions, new publication projects, and new or updated CD-ROMS and Web sites. These projects are largely filled using stock images, licensed with both royalty-free and rights managed contracts. Last, but not least, there are hundreds of Auxiliary Markets, which use stock photography for any number of purposes, such as in creating calendars, greeting cards, checkbooks, and T-shirts. Not long ago, stock photography was considered a cottage industry and disregarded by most professional photographers, advertisers and commercial publishers as schlock. Not so anymore.
Stock photography is now a billion dollar industry, aided by the growth of the internet and new technologies. While using a stock image may seem at first to dampen the creative spirit, the simple truth is that stock is risk-free, with none of the weather problems, technical difficulties, or schedule delays associated with assignments. The image is ready to be reviewed and used. In addition to this, the quality of images in recent years has increased as professional photographers have embraced the industry.
For these reasons, stock photography is an attractive option to photobuyers in any field where an image is needed.
Rob Daniels enjoys photography as a hobby and manages content at Future Photo http://www.future-photo.com and is a photographer for the stock photo website at Photo Wizard http://www.photo-wizard.net