Everybody knows that stock images websites – which serve both the photography industry as well as the audiovisual industry – create visual content for mass distribution. Stock photo agencies catalogue and license professional photographs and videos of people, places and things to bloggers and big businesses for a variety of marketing, advertising and artistic purposes, creating a vast content serving all sorts of purposes. Stock imagery permeates our media nowadays. It reflects and shapes our culture and societal values, so as our culture and values change, so does the stock photography industry. One such example comes from the social network Instagram – with almost one billion users worldwide – and its ever-growing influence in the net overall and in doing this also influences the stock image industry as well. Millions use Instagram every day to share and communicate through personal photos and day-to-day pictures. “Instagram provides information about what consumers want and which aesthetics and tendencies they are more inclined to”, states Jamie Frankberg, from the website Envato. “So”, she adds, “the tendencies that emerge from there will surely be a tendency in other websites of stock images, too, especially the photography ones”, she says.
But the average internet user has a propensity to see images on the web as “free” to be used without citing copyright or even crediting the creator. “Thank Google Images for the widespread ignorance of copyright abuse”, says Deborah Budd, from Second Wind, in an article discussing the change in businesses in general because of this “free” access. As a result of the “freemium” economy – in her own words –, royalty-free image access is expanding. Mobile phone cameras have become so very good, there are now multitudes of amateur-but-high-quality images available. “Instagram is driving a new nail into stock imagery’s coffin”, she says.
Beyond photography, the video stock sharing – the so-called stock footage – has also been helping videomakers, directors (professionals and amateurs) in many modalities, enhancing their work that sometimes are a part of a portfolio, of a college CV or company CV. There are several websites allowing the user to download this footage, many of them in high definition, but also many of them paid, depending on the kind of resolution, duration and format (in 4K, for instance, they are usually paid, and last from 10 to 30 seconds each). Besides there are a diverse of professionals around the world who survive producing this kind of material to feed the net always avid for such thing. Records of people who videotape places and countries in order to sustain the tourism, commerce and food industries. And the same way photography does, this stock footage have provoked a substantial change in this audiovisual industry. Videomaker and photographer Jeff Mertz, for example, is one of the many who provide and makes available his content to whomever wants to download it: his shootings, especially one entitled The City Without You – a collage of psychodelic images of the city of Austin, in Texas, seen from above and forming a surreal kaleidoscope – were used many times to illustrate the work of music videos from different singers and artists. “Of course we utilize images from these sources”, says producer Janaina Zambotti. “Including the one for this text (laughs), but this is not only a tendency but also a need: many times we do not have the able time or the desired budget for such and such project, and so we decided to gather this image bank which serves us both as a reference and for use in productions overall”, she says.
Certainly the user who wishes to have this sort of material must know where is the limit. This is one of the reasons such a well-known site like Shutterstock – on the surface the most complete and professional of all, with hundreds of varied images – is increasingly upping its signature price and fees. But on the other hand the company knows where it can go, and only recently has done a partnership with Google Chrome to select images that would be easily found in the search engine be more similar to Google’s, trying, maybe, to avoid frauds, thefts, and copyright infringement by its users. The discussion is vast, polemical, but has opened up new paths for the creation of a new market – similar to the one stock image sharing itself.
Watch below the incredible video by Jeff Mertz, with a musical score by composer Mario Grigorov, which many artists use in their portfolio: