The Death of $1 Stock

Die, die, die you lousy repositories of crappy photography.

Make room for FREE stock photos.

100 Legal Sources for Free stock photos.

For sure, it’s a bad time to be a professional photographer who makes lousy cliché imagery. It’s even worse, if your entire business model revolves around using very expensive equipment to make crappy photos. The writing is on the wall.

It used to be that I had to pay Corbis or Getty a bunch of money to license bad photographs. Now, most of these photos are fairly priced at $1 but it seems that’s not good enough for the market and the new price is freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

How did we end up here?

Now that everyone has computers, digital cameras and access to the web the cost of creating horrible photography is nearly zero.

What’s the value of these websites to professional photographers?

Use these sites to find out where the bar is set to make a living as a professional photographer. If you can’t produce photography that’s better than what’s available on these sites it’s going to be very hard for you to make a go of it.

I’m not talking about a better picture of a kitten or rainbow or metaphor for business I’m talking about an original approach to these subjects because to be honest the public doesn’t care if one kitten photo is marginally better than the other. They only care about the price and the price, is now free.

I’ve bought $1 stock before but the only reason I did it is I couldn’t find a similar photo at the other stock sources and I was told we absolutely had to have a photo to illustrate this very important part of the story.

If a better photo exists, I’ll buy it.

There Are 29 Comments On This Article.

  1. “If a better photo exists, I’ll buy it.”

    Exactly! That’s because the “better photo” has value.

    Figuring out a way to market yourself in these changing times is crucial.

  2. Now that cliche imagery is literally being devalued, does this mean everybody with a budget will crave anti-cliche imagery? (As opposed to what essentially amounts to cliche stock imagery shot custom?)

    I do hope so.


  3. Man, you pissed off a lot of recent D-SLR shooters who were promised a shot at fame if they increased to 12 megapixels.

    So let me get this right… It’s about talent?

    Yeah. Always has been.

  4. This bland commercialisation of stock in a race for the bottom (can you get much lower than free??) is only going to lead back to high-end buyers commissioning more original unique material again.

    ….and that’s a good thing for photographers!


  5. Im a Micro stock shooter, If you use my photo, I will GIVE you $5.00

    (starting my own trend)

  6. Well said…It is intresting how many new shooters there are with the “invention” of digital. The equiptment is more expensinve and your actual cost business is higher then shooting film but it seems now that everyone everyone thinks they are a photographer because the have a 12megapizel camera. I think we are just in a transiton period and a lot of these “photographers” will realize that making five dollors a year can’t pay the bills.
    Most photo editors that I have talked to are frustrated and board with stock photography. I agree with PE that new and fresh ways of looking at the same old thing will definitely win over a buyer.

  7. I believe art directors and buyers are occasionally frustrated with their clients who put pressure on the agencies to keep slashing the photo budget. Just as photographers need to stand up for thier fees, some agencies also need to step-up-to-the-plate and insist on larger budgets for photography – everyone wins with high quality commissioned work…. the photographers are obviously happy (because they not only earn more, but flex their creative muscles) the agencies increase their creative integrity, and the client generates greater sales.

  8. 12 Megapixles. You’re clearly a hack! I shoot with 39 Megapixles. I.e., I am better than you.


    Peter, I agree. I hate the “I would love to pay you more but my hands are tied” line. Getting quality images out is going to take more than the photographers doing all the standing up.


  9. This trend is just going to drive the industry down like it’s done with so many others. Things will come to a very low point but when it does pick up later on, the true value and quality standards for photos is going to emerge. Look forward for a tough time ahead.

  10. Who is this ” A Photo Editor National Magazine Photo Editor ” , a representative for Alamy ?

  11. Free stuff is always good, there is a place for utterly free stock…
    There are loads of people out there tinkering with Photoshop and other image editing apps, creating artworks, manipulating images, for fun and for learning.
    If a company or designer is buying an image its a different matter, a company might want to portray an individual image (company’s image) and not have the mass-market highly-used images you find on the free sites and $1.

    Check my blog for a link to some free credits at istock :)

    also a few earnings stats :)

  12. Vince in Malta

    Free photographs should be part of a larger picture. I am all in favour ……. of free websites, magazines, books etc.

    Free photos means no payment to the photographer and so should life be. Journalists should provide copy for free and picture editors should do their jobs for free … Picture libraries should make no money …

  13. I do agree. Well, i’m neither professional designer nor professional photographer. I’m amateur. And both – design and photo is my hobby. So i invest in those things as in my free time activities not business. An i don t need 36 Mpix camera – for me its enaugh with 8.

    i use free stcock photos when i need some (and don’t have my own). though, sometimes it is so hard to find a picture which fits your needs. can you complain about things that come as cheap as for free?

    Professionals shall be substantially better if they want make out living of it. and it’s not just about photography.

  14. A quote from the old days:
    If you buy a violin, you have a violin.
    If you buy a camera, you are a photographer.

  15. The death of microstock? I doubt it. But you keep hoping. Though, I do agree that there is a lot of crap photography out there. But many microstock companies are starting to delete those images. I think it will all work out in the end.

  16. Yeah, the number one free site boasts of having 125,000 pictures. Picking one at random I find it is out of focus, uncomposed and despite being “100% legal” it shows a minor and has no model release:

    Boy, doesn’t this stuff just scare the pants off me as a full-time microstocker! I sure wish I could get my standards up there with this photographer’s!