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Stock Imagery: Winds of Change

(July 2010) posted on Fri Jul 16, 2010

Image providers are helping users create more effective messages.

click an image below to view slideshow

By Kacey King

Change is one thing that’s certain in life. No one may be more aware of this than those companies producing and providing stock images. Constantly tracking the current trends—what’s hot as well as what’s not—is critical for these companies in order for them to provide exactly the images that graphic designers, clients, and print providers need to convey a creative message.

And it’s not just the longer-term trends they have to be concerned with; they have to look at the short-term trends as well. If the economy surges upward this year, creatives will be on the hunt for relevant “optimistic economy” images. If a particular technology, such as tablet computing or 2D barcodes, is suddenly on everyone’s radar, then there need to be images to help visualize these themes. And, just having the images is not enough—there must be a search engine in place that allows the prospective image user to find the image in the first place.

The Big Picture sat down with eight image providers in the marketplace to get their take on the state of stock: Alamy Images (, Corbis (, Dreamstime (, Fotolia (, Getty Images (, iStockphoto (, PhotoSpin (, and Shutterstock ( We asked them what types of images are at the forefront of users these days, what improvements they’ve recently made to their search engines to help customers find the perfect image, and what they see down the pike for the stock-photo and image industry.

What do you see as the overall current trends in the stock-image market?
Corbis: Twenty years ago, if someone wanted an image for use, they would commission a professional photographer who would create the image with film and put the negatives in a catalog of slides. This catalog would be sent to graphic designers to go through and choose their image. Today, this is a thing of the past with the ready availability of high-quality, lower-priced digital cameras and photo-editing software. Creating high-quality, readily available images for design use has become easier and more intuitive, causing a rise in the number of photographers trying to get into the stock-image business and making the price point to do so very low.

iStockphoto: Camera technology and the artistry has improved so much that there is a trend toward naturalistic or journalistic style in many of the shots that are popular.