Tag Archive: stock photography

Misadventures in Stock Photography

From Corbis

From Corbis

We’ve seen women laughing alone with salad before, but Buzzfeed’s collection of 60 Unusable Stock Photos really takes the cake.

(via MetaFilter)

Time pays $30 for photo on cover

There’s been much coverage of Time magazine’s miserable pay for use of Robert Lam‘s photo of coins in a jar on the magazine’s April 27, 2009, cover. Receiving only US$30 for the usage from his stock agency, the microstock company IStockPhoto, the photographer and others expressed delight about the sale on the Model Mayhem web forum. Ironically, the photo was used to illustrate a story on “The New Frugality”. Photo Business News & Forum weighed in as one would expect (and be sure to read through the comments), the Lightstalkers community was typically and understandably enraged, but the story even jumped into the non-photography news, with notable coverage at Salon. The most likely explanation of the abysmal fee is that the cover is an illustration cover, rather than an editorial photo cover, and the illustrator, Time art director Arthur Hochstein (no website for him, but here’s a discussion about Time’s 2007 redesign with much input from Hochstein; and here’s a note from Time publisher about Hochstein being a “whiz on our Apple Macintosh computer design system”), was likely compensated at the usual rate for his illustrations. As any designer might do, Hochstein likely cut costs on the stock art used in the illustration to minimize expenses for the job. And while outrage at the low fee for photography is justified, the sheer volume of generic pictures of coins in a jar suggests that one need not pay too much for use of such a picture; were similar images more rarified, the fee would necessarily be higher. And then, today, in the lightstalkers discussion, my favorite addition to the coverage appeared in a comment by Don Denton:

I was reminded of this story while rereading the 1984 Patricia Bosworth biography of Diane Arbus last night. Here’s an excerpt from a section on the photographer Robert Frank….‘In 1947 the Franks came to New York and Frank began photographing for Fortune, Life, Harper’s Bazaar. The pay was terrible ($50 a picture)’.”

Now, 62 years later, we’re at $30 for an image on the cover of Time. Adjusted for inflation, that comparison is even bleaker. Frank was getting paid $483.62 for a picture in 2009 US dollars, and the IStockPhoto photographer was paid $3.10 in 1947 US dollars.

“Photograph of Jesus” by Laurie Hill

I just ran into this funny little film by Laurie Hill about the ridiculous requests that sometimes come into photo archives. The animation’s great, a bit reminiscent of Terry Gilliam‘s Monty Python work. Hard to keep a straight face when a request comes in for a photo of Jesus or a dodo. “How about an etching, or a painting?” “Nope, we need a photo…and do you have a picture of Hitler at the 1948 Olympics? Or Neil Armstrong on the moon with a crowd of people?”

Another one bites the dust…

Just two days before Photoshelter completely shutters its stock collection, the following email went out to Digital Railroad’s users, the text of which also appears on the company’s blog (scroll to the bottom).

October 15, 2008

To Valued Members, Customers and Partners,

For the past few weeks, Digital Railroad (DRR) has been seeking additional funding required to sustain its current level of operations. To date, those efforts have been unsuccessful. As a result, effective October 15, 2008, the company has initiated a reduction in staff and expenses while it continues the funding effort. Nevertheless, Digital Railroad is committed to the continued support of its customers through this period and has retained adequate staff to support both member archives and image licensing sales through Marketplace.

We will have further information shortly and expect to provide an update to you next week. In the meantime, we are grateful for the loyalty and support that you have demonstrated and thank you for your patience during this transition.

Should you need additional information, please contact us at support@drr.net.


The Team at DRR”

Rumors abound about what’s going on. John Harrington thinks the whole thing is up for liquidation and that investors will be lucky to see just $5 million of the $15 million put into the company last December. PDNPulse is covering the scene, as well. Lightstalkers has open threads (and don’t miss previous threads about the DRR Marketplace users’ experience).

I’m quite curious to see what this means for the agencies and photographers who use Digital Railroad as their primary archive and means of distribution. VII, Noor, Redux, Grazia Neri, Invision….the list goes on and on. Will there be a mass migration to Photoshelter’s still operating Archive?

update: NPPA has an article up, too.  Not sure if it adds anything.

Photoshelter Collection delays close

Photoshelter Collection just sent out an email to contributors announcing a postponement of the closure and deletion of its images. Rather than closing on Oct. 10, PSC will remain open to buyers until Oct. 17 to accommodate some outstanding sales. More interesting, though, is a cryptic remark that “we’re working on a few *potential* opportunities for you to transfer or list your images with other agencies.” Regardless of any deal for transfer of images in the Collection, pictures will be deleted on Dec. 31. No word yet on which agencies or under what circumstances images might be transferred.

More Photoshelter Collection fallout

  Dear Friends,

We’re contacting you today with some unfortunate news – we will be closing The PhotoShelter Collection, effective October 10, 2008. 


A lot of people got the email today from Photoshelter announcing the end of the ambitious and inspiring Photoshelter Collection. The Collection-only employees have been laid off, the forums have been closed, and the archive will shut down on October 10. Sad news, indeed. Many people have been weighing in on the news.

There’s a lightstalkers thread, Daryl Lang at PDN Pulse has a story with some quotes from Collection photographers and CEO Allen Murabayashi (who has his own announcement of the closure at Photoshelter’s corporate blog: A difficult decision and refocus).

As always, Jackanory has a bit to say with the aptly titled “Very Sad News”, Rob Haggart weighs in with a brief mention (the comments are the real meat, especially this bit about the venture capital in the project). John Harrington’s got jump with a hint of the usual hard-hitting business angle. Some of the best commentary so far, though, is Vincent Laforet’s account of his visit to the offices today, summarizing what a lot of people felt about their participation in the collection:

When I gave my images over to the PhotoShelter Collection – I knew that I was perhaps hampering my changes of making stock sales – at least initially – relative to giving those same images to the “incumbent player.” BUT IF (sic) FELT RIGHT. Sometimes you do things to benefit just you – at other times you try to do things that might somehow benefit everyone else in the industry along with you…

Breaking News: Photoshelter Collection Shutting Down

Woke up this morning and checked my RSS feeds .. found a crazy little post from Photoshelter CEO Allen Murabayashi (found here) letting the community know that the Photoshelter Collection, which launched as a ‘more democratic stock photography marketplace’ roughly a year ago, was closing its doors.

Rather shocking news, doesn’t seem like many saw it coming (well.. maybe one person .. we’ll keep that private for now). M. Scott has been involved with the venture from day 1 and I joined up shortly there after, and I think I can speak for both of us in saying that it was a great team with passionate ideas running the show over there. That neither of us made any sales from PSC despite innumerable hours captioning and uploading hundreds of images to the Collection might have sent some warning to us that the model wasn’t working. Though, I am still happy for the significant boost I received when I won the Elevation 2008 award from them this spring.

More info: the Official Statement and some FAQ for Photographers

My thoughts are out to my friends there (Amber, Ashley, Rachel, and many more) who are out of work. As well as all my colleagues who have put so much work into establishing their archives there. Disappointing start of the day…

UPDATE (12pm) – Latest (last?!) post on Photoshelter Collection’s Shoot! the Blog by friend Rachel Hulin gives the good news that she will be continuing her photo-blogging missives at her new as-yet-unnamed blog hosted on her own site. Consider the blogroll updated! A Photography Blog. – http://rachelhulin.com/blog/

UPDATE (2pm) – PDN has a decent article up detailing the Photoshelter news today.