Back when I started my advertising career, if we needed a photo for an ad, we generally hired a photographer and models, rented a studio or site, and bought or rented props. All in all, a pretty expensive proposition. As technology and computers evolved, stock photo companies cropped up offering us photos for hundreds of dollars (on disc) or photo libraries for a few thousand. Soon, they made their way online, making it easy to search for the right image. A photo with a good enough resolution for print typically costs about $300.
But new online companies are disrupting the old stock photo model and offering photos for a mere $1 or so. Literally, just a buck. These “technology disruptors” allow photographers to upload their photos and users to buy them for a mere fraction of what it would cost on the traditional sites. The downside? The photos aren’t always as good a quality as on the expensive sites. But often, they are.
There has been a lot of press lately on this trend towards “microstock” photo sites such as iStockPhoto and Shutterstock. If you’re interested in learning more, check out these articles: Photo wars: A $2 billion business gets rough and When Are Photos Like Penny Stocks? When They Sell.
We use iStockPhoto a lot; most of the images on this website came from there. And for those times when we can’t find the right image super cheap, we use sites like Picturequest. It’s still a lot cheaper than hiring a photographer! (Every now and then, we still need to do that to get the “perfect” image.)