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Online Stock Photography – a World Where Pigs Fly

Stock PhotographyI remember back in the early 90s when my brother John called me up on the phone one day and explained that he had found a niche in digitally manipulated Stock Photography.  He said he was poised to make a good deal of money with it, but he couldn’t find any good help.  He knew that I had been into computers and thought maybe he could get me to work for him helping him digitally manipulate his photography.

John was a professional photographer doing mainly stock photography, and had discovered some new software called Adobe Photoshop Tutorials.  John found that he could use Photoshop to fix problems with photos taken at an expensive photo shoot that would have had to been re-shot.  He also found that he could use the software to create photographs that just could not be shot in real life.  This was a great thing for his stock photography business.

At the time I had just had a business fail, and I was supporting my family as an injection molding press operator, earning near minimum wage working the graveyard shift.  John lived in San Francisco at the time and his studio was located where AT&T stadium is now. I was living in Stockton California, a good hour and a half commute each way.

Well John offered me $50.00 an hour to come work for him in his studio in S.F., and I asked him what time he wanted me to report for work in the morning!

For the next 5 years I worked for my brother doing digital manipulation for Stock Photography, digital retouching, and lots of digital art and photography for advertising agencies.  I remember one of my first projects was to put an egret’s wings onto a pig for a stock photo of flying pigs.

Another time I brought my pet three-foot-long iguana to the studio and we photographed him. In those days we used film, and after developing the film we would use a drum scanner to digitize the photo, and then use either Photoshop or Live Picture to manipulate the photos.  We turned the iguana into a fire-breathing dragon.

One job we did for Mother Jones magazine involved replacing Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s head with Hillary Clinton’s head in a photo of Madame Chiang Kai-shek chatting with Eleanor Roosevelt in the rose garden at the White House.  We were later told that Hillary had it framed and put on her desk.  We also heard that she was at first confused because she did not recognize the outfit she was wearing in the photo.  Go figure.

We specialized in “conceptual” Stock Photography, producing images such as money trees, time flies – (a watch with wings),  an image of the earth in space but made of currency, dollar bills flying out the window, and that kind of thing.  We also did photo-shoots for fortune 500 companies and used digital techniques to produce advertising images.  John acquired an incredible reputation for producing the best stock photography of its kind, and all of the ad agencies knew him well. He was a huge success. He created a line of images he called “Animal Antics” using images of animals doing odd things like skateboarding and riding bikes.  The images were the basis for a highly successful line of greeting cards.

I finally grew tired of the commute and of sitting in front of a computer all day with an art-director telling me what to do. I went back to being an inventor, and John capitalized very well on his pioneering venture into digital stock photography, digital manipulation and funny pictures of animals.

Back then John was the first and for some-time the only stock photographer using digital manipulation to produce stock photos. There was no internet, and stock photography was pretty much limited to ad agencies with big budgets.

In those days he sold stock photography through Tony Stone Images, and The Stock Market.  Now Tony Stone is gone as is The Stock Market and Getty Images and number of other large stock agencies have replaced them.  Royalty free photography, widespread use of digital manipulation, and the internet are changing the face of the industry. Times have changed and John recently told me that the future of stock photography was online.

Mom and Pop business’s are going on the internet to find stock photos for their newsletters, advertising both online and hard copy, brochures, trade show booths, etc.  He feels the future of stock photography is online catering to the masses with low cost stock photography. There is a huge market for all types of photos for everything from photos for websites Design Training to pictures for brochures, to pictures for printed merchandise like cups and baseball caps.  Most people now searching for stock photos don’t even know what a stock photo is. They search for “pictures of pigs” or “shark pictures”.

To take advantage of this burgeoning new market for stock photos, today’s upcoming photographers (and the old ones too) need to get their work online where it can be found and purchased.

Once again John is on the leading edge of his field.  John has now launched a new website to address the blossoming online small business stock photo market.  Somewhere on his website there are photos of fire-breathing dragons in a world where pigs do indeed fly.

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April 20, 2009 - Posted by | Design Training, Stock Photography | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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