A couple of days ago a very interesting article on the shrinking market for commissioned photography was published in the New York Times. It’s an article all photographers should read. It paints a pretty bleak picture of the future of professional photography. YH-R photographer Sara Gettys neatly summed up the story. “It’s really depressing,” she said.
Stock photography may satisfy the bean counters and photo managers with ever-tighter budgets but a cheap photo may ultimately cost the publication much more than the price of the photo.
“The quality of licensed imagery is virtually indistinguishable now from the quality of images they might commission,” said Jonathan Klein, the chief executive of Getty Images, a stock photo agency.
Sure, a stock image may be good (enough) but is it truthful? How will the reader or viewer know if a photo in a news publication was an image set up and orchestrated by the photographer or a real, unrehearsed photo captured at the right time by the photographer that reflects the situation?
Or does it even matter to the reader whether the photo is real or fake?
I believe it does matter. It matters a lot. I believe in the authenticity of news images. Photos should capture reality as much as possible to accurately inform the reader or viewer. I’m talking about photojournalism here, pictures which, or at least appear to, show a real event or person.
And while there’s no guarantee that commissioned photography is indeed accurate and truthful, I believe a photo editor working directly with the photojournalist is much more likely ferret out any false images.
So a stock photo may be cheap but it may end up costing a publication much more – that publication’s credibility. To me credibility is worth much more than any savings gained by purchasing a cheap stock image.