Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Age of Instagram And Stock Photography

This "suspicious cat" (he knows me too well) is the type of picture I end up with when shooting with my iPhone! Oh well....

Cell Phones And Stock Photography 
The hot ticket these days seems to be image captured via phones through apps such as Instagram, Hipstamatic, and God knows how many more piling on by the second. There are stories of advertisers hiring Instagram shooters to shoot campaigns. Stock agencies are starting to have iPhone photo collections. Heck, there is even a new app that IS a stock agency for selling iPhone pictures! Hey, remember when cell phones were in the picture…not taking them!

A Conundrum
Part of me is pretty excited about the rise of cell phone photography. I have always thought it would be the ultimate to have a pocket-sized camera that I could shoot stock with…a camera I could have with me all of the time. The conundrum comes about, for me, in that I don’t actually like taking pictures with my iPhone.

Cell Phone Cameras And Commercial Opportunities
My old eyes have a lot of trouble seeing what I am doing when trying to shoot with my iPhone; pressing the button at the right moment to make the capture is an elusive talent for me, and the opportunities to capture truly worthwhile imagery, in a commercial sense, seem far fewer than I would have imagined. While that may or may not be true for others, in my case my sense of what is “commercial” is severely restricted by my industry experience. For me a successful commercial image is one that commands numerous repeat licenses over a lengthy period of time. I just don’t seem to be seeing those opportunities as I walk around with my iPhone.

A Passion For Shooting (Not)
You can probably tell from what I am writing that I don’t have passion for shooting with a camera phone. Keep in mind that just about every successful photographer stresses the importance of passion in photographic achievement. Further, though the “Instagram Look” is the hot thing right now, that too will pass.

Embracing New Styles
Photography embraces new styles and looks, absorbs them, expands its repertoire and moves on.  I remember in the 90’s when the leading agency of the time, Tony Stone Images (now Getty Images), would stress the importance of new looks such as cross-processing, shallow depth of field, and a host of other looks.  The “Instagram Look” will doubtless hang around, and some may even do quite well with it. But I believe that, for me, it is only a distraction from what I do well and what I do with passion and what will keep me earning a good living producing stock photos.

A Camera With Me All The time
There is no doubt that having a camera with me all the time, one that is capable of producing images that the agencies handle, can be of benefit.  I am, reluctantly I admit, committed to learning to use my iphone camera. But that is more a belief in embracing change than in expectation that the iPhono will replace my dslr or even supplement it in any significant way. Of course, how many of us scoffed at the idea that pixels would replace film?

Shoot More Pictures!
I do hope that a ton of photographers embrace cell phone photography, particularly professionals engaged in creating stock images. The more of my competition that is spending their time shooting on cell phones the more my own work will stand out. So quite reading this, grab your cell phone, and go out and shoot some pictures!