Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Slate on the "weird science of stock photography"

Back in June I posted about some of the perils of stock photography. The bottom line is that today more than ever, audiences demand authenticity in communication, and it's hard to be authentic when you're using a photo that wasn't shot for a specific purpose. This is especially true in ads, where the audience is super sensitive to inauthenticity because they have so many other choices about how the use their eyeballs and ears.

But there's another risk in using stock photos: someone else may use the same shot--over and over again, in fact. Yesterday, Slate.com ran a great story about stock photography, and it included an example of duplicate use by competing interests:

A few years ago, a model/actress living in Portland did a one-day photo shoot on the campus of Reed College. She frolicked around the grounds and inside a classroom, wearing a purplish hat she'd borrowed from the wardrobe coordinator. The photos taken that day have subsequently appeared in ads for both Gateway and Dell; on the Web sites for a Canadian media planning company, a British science museum, the BBC, Microsoft Finland, Greyhound bus lines, etc.; and on the covers of countless books.

If a stock photo is good and inexpensive, you can be certain that someone else is probably already using it. Want to ensure that your photos are yours and yours alone? Buy the rights. Or hire a photographer.

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