Stock photography is the supply of photographs, which are often licensed for specific uses. The stock photo industry, which began to gain hold in the 1920s, has established models including traditional macrostock photography, midstock photography, and microstock photography. Conventional stock agencies charge from several hundred to several thousand United States dollars per image, while microstock photography may sell for around USD 25 cents. Professional stock photographers traditionally place their images with one or more stock agencies on a contractual basis, while stock agencies may accept the high-quality photos of amateur photographers through online submission.
Stock photography refers to the supply of photographs, which are often licensed for specific uses such as magazine publishing or pamphlet-making. According to The New York Times, as of , “most” book cover designers prefer stock photography agencies over photographers in efforts to save costs. Publishers can then purchase photographs on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis.
Established models of stock photography include:
- Macrostock: High-priced and exclusive stock photography, also known as traditional stock photography
- Midstock: Stock photography priced between micro stock and macro stock which is often used online
- Microstock: Low-priced and inclusive stock photography. In competition to traditional agencies, microstock photography is a relatively new model of stock photography which is available through agencies that sell images for lower prices but in greater volume.
According to The New York Times, conventional stock agencies charge from several hundred to several thousand American dollars per image, and “base fees on the published size of an image, circulation and other factors.” Microstock photos may sell for as little as USD cents.
Professional stock photographers traditionally place their images with one or more stock agencies on a contractual basis, with a defined commission basis and specified contract term. The industry standard is purportedly to percent to the photographer, although at the start of the stock photography industry, fees were typically cut half and half between the agency and artist. Other stock agencies may accept the high-quality photos of amateur photographers through online submission.
Some online photo websites have created unique software to search for fitting stock photos, for example searching for complicated keyword combinations, color, shapes, and “moods.” Other search engines may seek to quantify the best photos by looking for elements as diverse as “bright lights,” “evidence of emotional connections between people,” and the tilt of faces.
Styles and trends
Traditional stock photo agencies have large catalogues that may include press archives and works by notable photographers such as Bert Hardy, Bill Brandt, Weegee and Ernst Haas. More recent trends in microstock photography include “lifestyle” photographs of people “at work and play,” food, sports, and fashion. Other stock photo themes may include stereotypes, expressing common emotions and gesticulations, pets, and images related to travel and tourism.