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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.

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By Kacey King

Getty Images: There is an insatiable appetite for content. There is greater volume and variety—the need for new imagery has never been more acute. Some are motivated by price point, some by quality, most by the need for the right image—right now. We are seeing companies taking advantage of subscription offerings and augmenting this need for volume with ad-hoc purchases from RM when high quality and impact is required. There is a different need for imagery when it is used to rapidly replenish a website versus imagery used for prints ads, displays, and posters.

Are there trends in the images themselves?
Shutterstock: One trend is the appeal for futuristic imagery in response to the rapid development in technology and how it influences lifestyle. With reference to environmental issues and ecology, companies are keen to highlight their “green” credentials and show them to be environmentally aware, so this can influence their choice of images to advertise themselves. Image buyers are also interested in natural-looking, spontaneous images of people. As our customer base becomes more global, it’s no surprise we see increased demand for more ethnic diversity and locally relevant images.

Many customers search for design elements to use as part of larger compositions. Images isolated on solid-color backgrounds are increasingly popular, as are vector illustrations. Many buyers also look for conceptual images to illustrate ideas in business presentations.

iStockphoto: Stock buyers still love business and abstract images, but they want more realism, more diversity, and “green” is big in the last two years. Also, vector art is very popular. What we are seeing at
iStock is a continued hunger for well art-directed, fresh, very natural shots.

Alamy: Stylistically, clients are tending to veer away from typical stock photography, preferring to source more authentic, cozier, less-posed, model-released lifestyle images with a more snapshot sensibility. Image buyers are also considering less stereotypical generic models, opting for more character development like hip seniors and “stay at home” dads, adopting lifestyles that are more aware of the environment, and going back to core values of life.

Additionally, photographers and image providers are using Photoshop in a more subtle, less literal way—playing with color palettes, for example. The result is simpler, cleaner, and more contemporary images replacing the heavily lit, over-manufactured images of before.