Tuesday, November 10, 2009

FYI How to Stop Using Stock Photos & Boycott the Stock Photo Industry

How to Stop Using Stock Photos & Boycott the Stock Photo Industry



By Matthew S. Chan, Last updated:  April 14, 2009

Because of my personal distaste and dismay of the Stock Photo industry which started with the Getty Images Extortion Demand Letter, I have taken steps to personally boycott the Stock Photo Industry and advocate not using stock photos altogether.  The stock photo industry seems to be rapidly consolidating into two companies:  Getty Images and Corbis, as they buy their way into near-monopoly status with them setting outrageous rules, policy, and pricing.

This article will not give you all the information necessary to entirely eliminate the need for stock photos in every situation.  However, this article will give you some ideas and strategies to wean yourself and perhaps altogether eliminate your need for stock photos.  I firmly believe that if you put your intentions behind the idea, you can make huge strides towards eliminating the need for stock photos altogether.

The very first thing you need to think about is whatever media project you are working on is, do you truly need a photo at all?  Chances are that you are working on a website, book, magazine, brochure, news story, banner, or some other media project.  Alternatives to photos might be diagrams, cartoons, illustrations, and drawings that you or a graphic artist you hire can create.  Can you take your own photo to fit the need?

If you hire a graphic artist to create your own artwork, do not hire anyone in China or India where there is very little respect for intellectual property.  They may be inexpensive but you can never be assured that their work is original.  There is little recourse for their bad behavior because they are so far away.  I recommend hiring graphic artists from the U.S. because as a professional community, they have a greater respect for intellectual property than their Chinese or Indian counterparts.  They will think twice before using pirated material. 

I would avoid hiring any company that outsources their work to graphic artist worker bees.  In other words, I always want to deal and negotiate with a graphic artist professional themselves, not some agent or agency that farms out graphics art work.

If you do want to use and take your own photos, I highly recommend investing in a good digital camera so that you can begin taking your own photos.  I also recommend getting to know amateur hobbyist photographers who have access to good cameras and enjoy taking photos.  Very often, amateur photographers with good cameras are trying to find a way to justify the costs of their hobby.  By hiring them inexpensively, you can get some great looking photos but also help the amateur photographer pay for his hobby.  Make sure they understand that you are they are working for hire and that you will have full ownership and rights to the photos.

Professional photographers can be expensive depending on what you want and who you use.  For these folks, I recommend bartering with them for exchange of services if you have talents in your profession.  I find many professional photographers finicky.  They will sometimes not give you full ownership or rights of the photo even though you paid them to take a photo.  They are quite protective and their thinking is aligned to many in the stock photo industry.  Admittedly, this is a broad generalization and based only on my experience.  I am simply not optimistic that you will get good value from a professional photographer but it certainly does not hurt to try and negotiate with them.

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