How generation smartphone is changing the stock image market


No matter what social-stock companies do, traditional stock images aren't going away — it’s a big business. However, there has been relatively little evolution in the world of commercially produced stock imagery (queue the overexposed pictures of smiling people and the ever popular drawing on a white-board). The myth that macro-stock agencies offer better images than micro-stock is being debunked; especially with advances in technology and the growth of social image platforms. Still, how exactly do these new platforms change the stock image market and what issues are both buyers and sellers facing?

I. The consistent, growing demand of original content

Infiltrated by constant information, the need for brands to differentiate themselves and produce strong, original content is critical, allowing community-based platforms an edge over the generic, stock photo . As photo-sharing networks become a destination for businesses seeking commercial-use photography and the high on-demand marketing approach increases, commercial imagery sourcing will continue to rise.

According to research from The Content Council, estimated budgets for producing content have grown steadily from 12.6% two years ago to 23.3% today and are on track to surpass 33% by 2017.

II. Do community-driven photography sites have the opportunity to monetize photos and turn their community into photo sellers?

As pointed out in Mindy Charski’s article Can Photographers Still Make Money With Stock Photography, not all professional photographers are willing to sell their work royalty-free, much less as micro-stock. The growing demand for new stock images as well as technological advances in smartphone camera quality and new mobile apps means that any mobile camera user can take a photo on their device, sell it and secure at least some moderate publicity.

“The cameras on a lot of phones are better than a lot of the cameras that your amateur photographer might be shooting with,” — Alan Capel, head of content at Alamy.

So why should brands be stuck with generic stock images when they can simply ask their followers for images? EyeEmSnapWireScoopShoot andOlapic provide users with various opportunities to publicly distribute photography. “Missions” and photo assignments allow brands to ask for user created images in hope that users will deliver something valuable.

The money is minimal and payouts are few, but the majority of these assignments are asked merely as a favour to the brand and users seem to be very happy to participate for prizes or simply just the bragging rights of having their photos published.

III. Do emerging social-stock companies have an opportunity to source stock content from a broader community of contributors?

Taylor Davidson has a great article about about social photography’s impact on stock photography. While there are a number of macro-stock agencies (GettyAlamy, etc) that provide a place for photographers to post and sell work for commercial organisations, many of these agencies typically take a large portion of the profit photographers charge. This form of scalping allows new players to tap into an already existing market but with a fresher, photographer-friendly concept.

quote from David Meyer’s article “Taking Stock”

Newer platforms have made it a goal to help professional photographers, as well as those looking to branch into a more professional realm, by appealing to those looking for quick and possibly better profits on their work, integrating mobile-app photo editing and simplifying the purchase aspect.

IV. Do buyers want more “authentic” imagery that can be sourced better from the crowd than professional photographers?

As the use of social image platforms increase and images of everyday lives emerge, both photos and authenticity evolve. These new “authentic” or “wild” images are based on the millions of images shared every day on social media and photo-sharing communities. Flooded by images of our daily lives, visual content has become a necessary tool for communication and B2C sales.

As shown by Marketing Experiments, when testing user response, 35% of visitors were more likely to sign up when shown a real, “authentic” photo rather than the top performing stock photo.

V. How does the social stock market impact strategies? Can social stock expand the stock photo market, or does it merely steal market share?

According to a Fast Company article, as visual content becomes more necessary, so too is the need for authentic, user-generated content. This type of content has more influence on what people buy, changing market demands and strategies. Olapic, for instance, focuses on new brand marketing and ecommerce opportunities through customer social engagement. User photos can display the product in a variety of situations that would otherwise be very complicated to imagine or extremely costly to arrange. Businesses see companies such as Olapic as an opportunity to crowd-source these pictures.

Additionally, viewers subconsciously project their feelings onto your content. As traditional stock photos are overused and abused, it is becoming more necessary to create original content. As Conversion XL wrote in their article “The Science of Storytelling & It’s Effect on Memory”, when a visitor lands on your site for the first time, everything they see is processed through their working memory. If you’re using a stock photo that resembles an image that created a negative experience for the visitor, they may project their negative experiences onto your stock photograph and ultimately your brand.

More affordable and more relevant photo outlets are continually emerging, causing changes in customer demands and closing the gap between professional photographers and hobbyists. As generation smartphone continues to dominate social image platforms, these platforms may not launch a stock photo business, but their impact on the market is undeniable.