Picture Libraries and Smartphone Images - The next big thing or just wishful thinking?

The whole world is apparently social media crazy and everyone is running around shooting pictures of their everyday lives. This is with camera equipped mobile phones which are then tweeted, facebooked and instagrammed, often with some retro simulation filter added. A photographic boom? Certainly. But how does this impact on me as a professional stock / library photographer?

Some libraries have just integrated this into what they offer, some are trying to ignore it and some are actively trying to build up stocks of this kind of imagery and have come up with plug-ins that mean photographers can upload directly from their mobile phones. I've started to do this, via my iPad, and have been uploading a lot of pictures in that last few weeks. So what's the result? Well total sales for me of this new, modern, cool, immediate, cutting edge, social media type photography are exactly zero. So am I doing something wrong? Looking at the sales numbers of other photographers doing this however my impressions are that they haven't discovered a licence to print money either.

Is this early days in the next stock photography trend? or is there a fundemental flaw in the notion that because everybody is shooting this kind of image personally, it follows that picture editors will be packing their print and electronic publications with sepia toned, vignetted and filtered images of everyday life. Seemingly as that is what their audience wants. Because, aside from a few lifestyle and fashion features which feature a minimal nod towards the 'instagram' style with some desaturated colours and a slightly more 'real world' look, I see little evidence that images bought from picture libraries are anything other than the conservative and conventional images that they have always been. Certainly, my 'normal' images are still selling very well.
Having experience of working with clients who say they want a more 'cutting edge' look and end up deciding to go with the tried and trusted, I can imagine lots of clients turning up on shoots and telling the photographer that they want an 'instagram' look for the pictures, because they probably feel that they have to. However, I can imagine scenarios where once they discover that doesn't really work, things go back to normal. 
I typed this into Google - 'magazines that use hipster photography' I got this.

Now there really isn't anything particularly different there, certainly not in terms of form and presentation. So just exactly why can't some libraries get enough of my high contrast, high saturation, heavily filtered renditions of my digital files and turn their noses up at anything remotely conventional? Well the simple answer is I don't know. I don't know why these libraries are so keen on it, though I could hazard a guess and I don't know why it doesn't seem to have taken over the way published pictures look as it might be assumed they would by now. Unless there is actually a split going on. That somehow the situation has arisen that we like our social media for our private lives, but for everything else we read we're quite happy with the way it's always been, thank you very much. 


It's also this thing about if you run a business or make any kind of a professional media living, you HAVE to have a social media presence, or else you will die a commercial death. Well maybe. The idea here is that trends and therefore commercial success spread across social media. That somehow a product, a service, a company or an individual will prosper from some word of mouth wildfire recommendation spread via 'friends' across all the social media platforms. But is that really the case? Are people busy passing on opinions as to how good this is, how bad that is. Or are they still just posting pictures of what you can do with a traffic cone after consuming 12 pints of Bolivian Beer?

Personally I can't think, that other than bringing people to this blog, my heavy and extensive social media presence has earned me much extra income. I'm also suspicious that people are so bereft of a life that they actually follow supermarkets, shops and other commercial outlets on social media. 'Furry Pastures Pet Cemetery - Follow us on Facebook' !!!

So all in all I think the jury is definitely still out on whether there is any real change in the kind of images that sell well via stock libraries. Now what those images are shot with, that's a whole other story.

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