Rewind the film back a few years and you’ll arrive at a rather sad scene. It’s hard to imagine that, once, stock photo websites were filled with sub-par renditions of corporate lunch breaks, unintentionally hilarious settings involving sitcom-esque couples, or oddly suggestive festive photography. Okay, truth be told, there still are heaps of images like these- photos with serious meme potential as their only redeeming quality. However, the tide is turning. A new wave of socially aware, beautifully composed stock photography is gradually taking over, and we couldn’t be happier about it. Here’s why.
The Re-Appropriation of the Whole Stock Photo Concept
With the sudden shift brought by services such as Adobe Stock and Unsplash.com, the distinction between regular photography and a classic stock piece has never been looser than it is right now. The typical, well-renovated interior, artificially-lit interior, identical sweaters, and solid white backgrounds behind the forced posing of a 90’s entrepreneur all have been replaced by neon-lit streets, comfy coffee shops, mason jars, Scandinavian design tropes, and captivating, unedited, and, at times, outright unflattering close-ups. The absurd straightforwardness of the classic stock photo has been replaced by mood, texture, and ambiguity.
While this, of course, can make it really difficult to illustrate your point during a high school presentation, it makes for a far more convincing message in general. In short, the stock photo industry has been seriously “artified”.
Most Importantly, It Recognizes the Current State of Affairs
The modern stock photo does not stand only for a super hi-res aerial shot made with a high-end drone somewhere in Iceland. Although the visual prowess has grown alongside the content itself, there’s just so much more going on than a simple aesthetical update.
First off, stock photos found on contemporary stock photo websites (most notably Unsplash.com) no longer bare distinctions between races, ethnicities, minorities, or any other group for that matter, and while it may seem perfectly normal today, it was not something one could expect from a popular stock photo site even 6 to 7 years ago (apart from borderline offensive cliches about the theme). If you typed in LGBT just a couple of years ago, you’d most likely get a truckload of cartoonish depictions of Pride members or some kind of a Blue Oyster variation about the theme. Although, since its complete transition to a web-based service, the stock photo industry was never discriminating in the traditional sense of the word. It also never recognized the groups in a genuinely human, completely serious manner!
Today, one can easily find a beautiful, high-quality picture of a stunning queer individual, an image that comes from an authentic place and community and, as such, represents actual pain, attitude, and affection. The same arrives from a bearded homeless outcast giving a penetrating gaze to the author’s 80-105 mm lens. Stock photos have become honest and thought-provoking. Who would have thought that in the Trump era of casual dining room racism, the lack of power positions, social boundaries, and ideological supremacy characteristic to contemporary stock photo websites will become so pleasantly refreshing?
Furthermore, the business of the stock photo has never strayed further from its initially strictly business roots. Sites like Unsplash.com provide access to thousands of high-quality photos with no toll whatsoever, usually offering the user to credit the photographer with a simple mention (or a cup of coffee in the case of the Pixabay.com, which is also a voluntary option). Yes, places like Unsplash.com, Stocksnap.io, and Pexels.com are free and are functioning on nothing else but our goodwill. Thousands of photos that have every price-worthy parameter about them are coming with no price tag at all, turning the whole stock photo business into a kind of community experience where the givers and the receivers constantly switch their roles and exist in an all-around beneficial universe.
There’s a Serious Artistic Integrity There
For once, finding the perfect stock photo has become somewhat of a difficult task. And, that’s not because you have to scroll through a myriad of dull, cringe-inducing images. Quite contrary, the technological progress and the consequential democratization of photography have led us to stock photos that boast incredible quality and artistic integrity. Some of the flat lay snaps seem to be ready-made for a beautiful, trendy cookbook while the majority of travel photos seem to be a screen capture from an inspiring, big-budget video edit. The portraits often boast exhibition worthy materials, images often have bare strong socio-political commentaries, while some of the more conceptual shots offer the same kind of sophistication you’d expect from a neatly packaged interior design lookbook. You better go on the search with a clear idea of what you need. Otherwise, there’s a great potential for getting sucked into a loophole that will surely divert you from the original cause.
Where’s the Hook?
There is none. More than anything else, the trajectory stock photo websites have gone down can be viewed as a natural progression of the phenomena. As brands strive to get more in touch with the current cultural climate and to be more relatable for the general public, the utilization of casual, humane, and seemingly candid images that reference current fashion and lifestyle trends seems to be only a sensible step to take. For us and all the others, it’s a little yet important revolution of beauty!
Explored and written by photo printing experts from My-Picture.co.uk – one of the biggest and best-rated manufacturers and distributors of personalized wall decor and lifestyle accessories in the UK.