Thursday, March 01, 2007

Rants From the Right Side - Guest- Miss Y on Stock Photography

One picture can say a thousand words. Now try it the other way around: One word can say a thousand pictures. I've been juggling those words around as I try to figure out what to make of the relationship between advertising and stock photography.

First instinct? I hate stock images and the way they stereotype and package people, emotions, moments... I hate how image banks slice up life into categories and neatly fit mostly intangible concepts into 'boxes' you can open with a keyword. Hi, welcome to the image bank. Please enter your
keyword(s) to access the image(s) we have decided appropriately fit your request.

But in advertising, let's face it, time and money are not on our side. We have tight deadlines, low budgets and high demand. So I'm not exactly at liberty to go out and take my own photos (like I did for university projects). Time, models, the right scenery, the perfect lighting...all hard to come by. So the remaining options are stock photography or a hired photographer. I would, if the budget allowed for it, go for the latter where I can at least cater directly to the concept.. I'm not actually taking the photo but I can make sure all the elements are exactly as I envisioned them.

But here's another problem. What's excruciatingly irritating, in this region in particular, is that stock images have become the norm to such an extent that even when the client allows for a photo shoot, he expects the images to be like those of stock photography...forced, fake and disgustingly perfect, lacking any real essence or emotion. I end up back at square one. The concept and layout become controlled by these 'alien' images that take the personal edge off the end result.

Like X so cleverly pointed out, this issue has been around for a long time but the way people perceive and deal with photography is evolving. There's an image overload, everyone's taking pictures (my grandma has a digital camera even though her TV is still one of those 12 channel, the remote is heavier than the TV kind of TVs). People know what real is, they love what real is (YouTube, reality TV). So why do we keep feeding them images that they just know aren't real?

Do advertising and stock images go hand in hand because we're selling stereotypes too or are we selling stereotypes because we use stock photography? I know there's no clear cut answer to this issue (Read this yesterday from Russell: " You get carried away with rhetoric and enthusiasm and forget that the likely scenario will be that everything will be a blurry munge like it was before, with this new element added in") but some blurriness would be nice.


Anonymous Spoon said...

great post Y! i think it's getting quite pathetic that clients are insisting on reverting to stock imagery in their communication

4:09 PM  
Anonymous spoon said...

great post Y! i think it's getting quite pathetic that clients are insisting on reverting to stock imagery in their communication. Clearly they are indistinguishable from one another and it is getting pretty serious.

I think if someone was to conduct some type of a recongition study, some heads would roll then some more and then some more, until the client barraks are left souless...

4:16 PM  
Anonymous Account Gentleman said...

I am an account man and have recently noticed that creatives have been relying on stock images more than before. I'm not sure which came before the chicken or the egg, but have lazy creatives lead clients down this path???Y don't mean yourself :)

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strange that you don't caveat when showing stock imagery that this is simply for research or to express a basic look and feel due to not committing any budget as of yet - to the point that a client wouldn't want to even go near stock imagery

5:09 PM  
Anonymous Ish said...

hmm yes indeed anyonymous indeed...

10:14 AM  
Anonymous GB said...

Y is you an art directa?

11:12 AM  
Anonymous farrukh: copywriter & journalist said...

Clients go for stock images also because they cost less and are safer because os the generic look.

It takes a client with guts and a very persuasive agency to get real and show the stuff one sees on the streets - non-models, real street ambience, real language not corporate crap. A few brands are beginning to do this in the region now. The models and language in Barbican ads is an example.


9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love your blog. just discovered it tonight. Definitely coming back for more.


3:00 AM  

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