Look, believe it or not, I’m not happy about the way this has turned out either. Commissioning original work is the best thing about being an Art Buyer and thankfully, at my level, I’m now fortunate enough to work often on big, brand development projects. Most of the Creatives and Clients that I work with value and utilize the creative input of the photographer plus they understand that they need to pay usage. But… I’m worried that those of you who are panicked by the NYT article (and angry at me for shaking up your thinking a bit) are going to be left behind as the stay-at-home mom photographers get a bigger and bigger piece of the market.
Of course let’s keep in mind it is a really big market that’s growing every day. There are images everywhere and as per my point from yesterday, many of them do not make or break the success of the brand. For a really interesting history of one ubiquitous stock shot, and it’s myriad of incidental uses check out the Fair Trade Photographer’s post on this image:
I’m not saying this good-enough philosophy is best practices on the part of an ad agency or a client for any job but I know that in the end, these shots are not worth fighting for. Some of you responded to yesterday’s post by assuring us that you will be waiting to do the reshoot when the client realizes that these images have “failed”. These images won’t fail and they won’t succeed either- they’re just not important enough.
(Of course there are lots of examples of crappy stock photography being used in mass campaigns too. Rest assured, Art Buyers fight this phenomenon, if for no other reason then the risk that any RF or even RM image could be used by someone else. Whenever we buy stock, we try as hard as we can to persuade the client to buy exclusivity (depending on the media buy) and on some accounts, we’ve forbidden our Art Directors from even looking at RF.)
But I also think we need to be careful when we automatically assume that the work of these amateur photographers is inherently sub-par. By what standard? And I’m saying this after many, many years fighting the good fight that
Eventually I learned to pick my battles. If the client wanted a RF stock image for use at 1/8 page in a little DM piece that was going out to 200,000 homes in one drop and needed to show a smiley happy picture of a girl catching snowflakes on her tongue… Well it’s pretty hard to argue to shoot that one (believe me, I’ve tried- mostly going at it from the point that we should have ownable images- “hey, let’s at least identify some scenarios that you’d like to use on your DM and FSI’s and even if it’s just generic smiley people enjoying life, we’ll shoot a little branded image library? Anyone?”).
Back to the flickr photographer: I won’t ever have a reason to commission her (because for one thing there is a lot more to photography than just making pretty pictures with your friends and family in natural light situations) but here are a few of Ms. Pruitt’s (the photographer profiled in the NYT article) stock shots that hold up:
To end, I must say that I am saddened to read the reaction to my post by James Worrell who writes:
[HMAb] has a point that not all advertising photography is worth the same amount of money, however I can tell you that in the past year I have been offered too little for a very involved and creative campaign and downright ripped off over one that was just “executional”. In both cases a buyout was demanded, no negotiation.
I do agree that not everything is worth top dollar but what we are experiencing now is a downright assault on fees and usage. It is in my opinion the age old story of Supply and Demand. Buyers of content have the upper hand at the moment and some people, even some great ones, will leave the business as the trend plays out.
This is the same thing I’ve been hearing for a couple of years and I just don’t know what I can do to help on this one. Because of where I work (if you’re an agency who can hire a freelance Art Buyer, you at least understand that you have to pay for good photography), I haven’t experienced this dramatic assault on fees. But I also can’t insist that the client shoot every image. If shooters like Mariano Pastor are offering product shots to own for $250 and my client finds out about it, there’s only so much I can argue that the shot needs to cost 30 times that.
But I do argue with them because I don’t want y’all to leave the business. I need to know that when the good tabletop jobs come up, you will all still be there so that we can really delve into the skill and style that a great photographer can bring to the brand and elevate it beyond the value of a $250 photograph.