After posting my observations of Haute Coulter and Ready-to-Wear clothing I started to search for an industry even more similar to media music. I wanted to find something where the artistic product was primarily sold to business customers in the media world.

I quickly thought about media photography and its history and evolution.

STOCK ANSWERS TO NEW NEEDS

Back in the 1920’s there was a sudden demand by magazines and newspapers to use photogenic images at a booming rate.

There was also a need for rights of the people and other elements within those photos to be legally cleared.

Initially the only option was hiring professional photographers to create custom photo shoots. This was both time-consuming and expensive.

Then enterprising photographers started creating Stock Photo Libraries where their existing images could be licensed by users.

A new industry was born. And the rates per license were less than setting up your own custom photo shoot.

This industry grew over time. And in the 1980’s the Stock Photography industry had a major boom and a plethora of quality images emerged. Art directors. photo editors and graphic designers could access quality photos without requiring a dedicated, custom photo shoot.

For decades distribution of available images were sent out in huge and expensive printed catalogues. This changed when image distribution was converted to CD-ROMS. .

Another invocation at the time was the introduction of “royalty free” licenses in which purchasers of the CD-ROMS could have unlimited uses of those images.

This business model also attracted and expanded into emerging markets of computer graphics, design and publishing.

SEEING, BUYING AND CONSOLIDATING THE FUTURE

Within a few years, huge investors such as Bill Gates and Getty saw the potential value within this field and started buying up libraries. They then began displaying, licensing and disturbing their vast selections of over a hundred million photos via the Internet.

MODERN STOCK LIBRARIES

The demand for visual content across so many mediums has never been greater. It is no longer just print media. It is all spectrums of content including the new and endless content frontiers created by the Internet.

To feed this hungry demand, photo searches need to be make quickly, rights cleared fast and image deliver needs to be made immediately.

THE MARKET TODAY

Custom photography still exists, but the dominant force today is Stock Image Libraries. They tend to exist on a few levels:

MACROSTOCK.
High-priced and exclusive License rates per use can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars per image.

MIDSTOCK
Photography being licensed in the $10-$50 range.

MICROSTOCK
There is a huge pool of contributing photographers, both professional and amateur, offering a vast source of images at this level. Licenses can range from free to .25 cents per image.

BUT WHAT ABOUT QUALITY?

Like with Library Music, the quality of Stock Photography is rapidly improving. There is currently a greater demand for photos that appear less staged and more authentic. Stock images of plastic-smiled models is giving way to more artistic imagery.

Previous barriers to photographers such as location, artistic conformity, business relationships, age, connections, access, nationality, gender and race have diminished.

But, as the opportunities for access has exponentially grown, so has the pool of competitors and customer options.

CUSTOM MEDIA PHOTOGRAPHY

Today, high-end custom photo shoots still exist but to a much narrower degree.

Photographers of great industry reputation, specialties and expertise are brought in on major campaigns and in situations where Stock Photos will not suffice.

However, those artists are in competition with Stock Photography and constantly need to create demand for their services by differentiating themselves and their services to their potential customers who have faster, cheaper and easier Photo Stock options.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Like with Library music, the real money is in owning the library, not just being a single contributor.

Innovations in image acquisition, distribution, licensing and marketing drive the future of this industry.

WHERE DO YOU FIT IN?

Anyone in the media photography (or media music) businesses needs to predict needs in the future and figure out their place within it.

Tossing off complaints like “race to the bottom” or “devaluing art” does nothing towards finding one’s own navigational career path.

Bemoaning reality is not a productive game plan. Creating new realities is.

WHAT ARE YOUR INSIGHTS AND PERSPECTIVES ON THIS?