Working as a model for stock photography — what’s it like?

by on February 3, 2016 at 12:12 am in Economics, Education | Permalink

I very much liked this Jonathan Kay piece, which has so many good, interesting, and separate points, here is one of them:

“One of the most important elements of the Shutterstock quality-control process is to ensure there are no logos or other brand identifiers,” she told me. “Nor can the photos contain identifiable people or locations which haven’t released their legal rights.” The blackouts here can be extremely broad, and include some of the most famous landmarks on the planet. You can’t include the Eiffel Tower in most forms of stock photography, for instance. Nor can you include anyone wearing the iconic beige-and-blue Burberry pattern. Even a tiny patch of it in the background renders an image completely unusable.

And this:

Click through the Shutterstock database, and you find that professionally shot and curated stock photos invariably exhibit what might be called calculated soullessness. The subjects project human emotions—happy, sad, confused, angry—but in a simple, one-dimensional way. There should be nothing bespeaking a complex inner life. Real human interest always will distract the audience from the intended product or idea.

In closing:

How does a photographer achieve authenticity in an age where authentic culture increasingly is built around irony? More broadly: Is the project of organizing human experience into databases of generic happy faces and sad faces still relevant to us in 2016?

Alas, I can no longer remember to whom I owe the pointer, my apologies.

File under Those New Service Sector Jobs.  And if that doesn’t suit you, here is “Calling all ‘bulky’ Alec Baldwin lookalikes”.

1 Richard Harrington February 3, 2016 at 12:56 am

I’ll bet you’ve seen the stock model mentioned in this story!

2 Ray Lopez February 3, 2016 at 2:33 am

Nice. You will note she’s of mixed Canadian-Asian stock (model). Proving–once again, and contra to SS SS’s arguments–that mixed race brings out the best features in every race. Usually however if it’s a girl she’s really talented and beautiful, but mixed Asian-White boys seem a bit too effeminate to me.

3 Ray Lopez February 3, 2016 at 2:36 am

OK the exception to Asian-Caucasian cute gay-looking boys might be chess Grandmaster David Howell, who looks mixed to me, but is not too effeminate. You be the judge: He’s modeled for Esquire magazine too.

4 R. Jones February 3, 2016 at 8:38 pm

Mixing with whites definitely brings out the best features of other races! However, making an appeal aesthetics for miscegenation is probably not a good idea. The most beautiful Brazilian models look European. Novelty is attractive though, but I worry about the dwindling diversity of eye colors.

5 Ray Lopez February 4, 2016 at 5:00 am

I think eye colors are determined by discrete genes that don’t ‘blend’ much if at all between generations. So in theory (I could be wrong) an African can have blue eyes. Anyway they also make fake contact lens that allow you to have any color eye you want.

6 prior_test February 3, 2016 at 1:27 am

‘You can’t include the Eiffel Tower in most forms of stock photography, for instance.’

Actually, you can. Just check

But hey, why spend 15 seconds looking at the world’s apparently largest collection of stock photography when creduously accepting what someone writes concerning the exaggerated fear of American IP law.

See the virtual death of American documentary film making for an illustration – the fear of such IP inclusion is based on the film distributor wanting to avoid any and all potential legal problems, thus resulting in non-distribution of documentaries that do not pass the filter of the distributor’s lawyers attempting to remove even a chance of legal action.

‘This study explores the implications of the rights clearance process on documentary filmmaking, and makes recommendations to lower costs, reduce frustration, and promote creativity. It focuses on the creative experience of independent, professional documentary filmmakers.


Rights clearance costs are high, and have escalated dramatically in the last two decades.

Gatekeepers, such as distributors and insurers, enforce rigid and high-bar rights clearance expectations

The rights clearance process is arduous and frustrating, especially around movies and music.

Rights clearance problems force filmmakers to make changes that adversely affect–and limit the public’s access to–their work, and the result is significant change in documentary practice.’

7 Ray Lopez February 3, 2016 at 2:30 am

I agree that IP law fear is exaggerated. We need more IP protection. As for GettyImages, they may (I’m guessing) be paying some sort of blanket royalty for the use of the Effel Tower to the French government (maybe) and they absorb the cost for their clients, who sign up to be able to use these images without having to negotiate with the copyright holders. Nothing wrong with that.

N.B. – Pat Riley has the US trademark on the phrase “THREE PEAT” (used in any combination, even if it sounds close to this phrase. He’s made $200k USD in royalties. Anybody unduly upset with that? Not me.

8 chuck martel February 3, 2016 at 8:36 am

If it’s possible for me to charge someone for use of my image, why is it not possible for me to charge them for looking at me in the flesh? Why is my image of value but my actual, corporeal presence worthless?

9 cfh February 3, 2016 at 11:08 am

Be careful, your tattoos may have copyrights of their own.

10 L.F. February 3, 2016 at 5:24 am

Eiffel tower is ok. It is the light show that is I.P. IAC protected buildings, mouments, etc. are generally acceptable as part of cityscapes.

Here is the list Shutterstock provides photographers.


11 bob February 3, 2016 at 10:58 am

I used to work at a stock photo agency. Some photos are only available for use that is not advertising, textbooks and what not.

It was an interesting job. One of my favorite collections was of various animals masturbating.

12 Urso February 3, 2016 at 5:29 pm
13 Ray Lopez February 3, 2016 at 2:51 am

Apropos of nothing, to promote a friend’s restaurant I once signed up in Facebook with a generic photo, generic name, etc, and made lots of ‘friends’, and used a stock photo where, if you looked carefully, you could see the watermark from the stock photo company (I used a low resolution and tried a bit to Photoshop the watermark out, but failed). But nobody looked carefully and ever complained. And I promoted my friend’s restaurant fine on Yelp. But rest assured loyal reader: on this site I am telling the 100% truth, except my name is changed for privacy reasons (I and my family are prominent).

14 Thiago Ribeiro February 3, 2016 at 7:23 am

“But rest assured loyal reader: on this site I am telling the 100% truth, except my name is changed for privacy reasons (I and my family are prominent).”
Wow, I haven’t met many prominent people. The most prominent person to speak with me in person was a (defeated) mayoral candidate in the little city where I was born. He and his followers were campaigning on the same sidewalk I was having a walk. He looked into my eyes, shook my hand and asked for my vote to make our city prosper again.
And a cousin of mine has a prominent jawline, but it is a different thing, I guess.

15 L.F. February 3, 2016 at 10:38 am

If you are so “prominent” why were you too cheap to go ahead and pay for the stock photo – sans watermark – instead of stealing it!


16 Tom February 3, 2016 at 11:52 am

Behind every great fortune there is a crime.

17 Shane M February 3, 2016 at 3:32 pm

Why not pay a few bucks and support the stock photo ecosystem? It’s not like these things cost much anymore.

18 rayward February 3, 2016 at 6:30 am

Of course, this is all part of a media driven (and obsessed) culture. People are so blind to the culture they have convinced themselves that Facebook et al. (which I refer to as the Mad Men of Silicon Valley) are technology companies and that their services are “free”.

19 Thiago Ribeiro February 3, 2016 at 7:27 am

Well, they are as free as radio and free-to-air TV are.

20 A Definite Beta Guy February 3, 2016 at 9:22 am

Like the saying goes, you’re the product, not the customer.

21 Thiago Ribeiro February 3, 2016 at 10:22 am

Right, but it is neither new nor particular to the conmen of Silicon Valley. The printed press carries (carried?) ads. As a Brazilian newspaper owner said: the avertiser is sacred. Not to mention all the stories about newspapers’ corruption and venality (Mencken loved to write about it). I really don’t understand all the ill will against Silicon Valley. I don’t care about most of what they do nowadays, but the World doesn’t owe me a jetpack.

22 chuck martel February 3, 2016 at 8:32 am

Stock photos of young, attractive black babes are used to sell all kinds of things. Nobody is repelled by them. Evidently, simply getting eyes to look at the ad is a crucial initial step driving the consumer process, more important than touting the advantages of the product over its competition. Maybe that’s why Michael Jordan was paid a fortune for pretending to eat at McDonald’s.

23 Albigensian February 3, 2016 at 11:42 am

I guess I’ve never really understood the reasons behind the ubiquity of images (often generic stock photos) in print and Internet publishing. When I see a photo above or in a story I usually think, “What does this photo add to the story?” And all too often, the answer is: “nothing.”

A newspaper runs a story about the scarcity of gates at an airport, and how that might affect travelers (price and availability of flights?). And there’s a photo showing a crowded airport corridor, or perhaps an airliner parked at a jetway. And what, exactly, does the photo add to the story- perhaps we don’t know what airports or airliners look like?

A story about corruption in government has a photo of a government building. An article on Zika virus displays a close-up of (what else) a mosquito. An article on urban crime: a police car, with its lights flashing. A snowstorm?

I suppose these meaningless photos are there because someone thinks they generate pageviews, clicks, etc., and perhaps they do. But, if they add absolutely nothing to the story (as is often the case), why??

24 Tom February 3, 2016 at 11:54 am

Well, they break up the text. And sometimes reduce the need for more of it.

25 Thiago Ribeiro February 3, 2016 at 12:54 pm

Often the stories themselves add absolutely nothing to our lives, our knowledge, yet they are there. What else should a newspaper do?

26 Shane M February 3, 2016 at 3:34 pm

Maybe stories without photos don’t attract as many readers.

27 Lawrence Krubner February 3, 2016 at 11:55 am

Let’s remember that when stock photography got going, back in the 1920s, it’s original focus was famous buildings such as the Eiffel Tower, so this sentence says a lot about how things have changed:

“You can’t include the Eiffel Tower in most forms of stock photography, for instance.”

My father was a stock photographer from 1948 to 2007. He made hundreds of thousands of dollars off his photos of the Empire State building, the World Trade Center, the Golden Gate bridge, and a thousand other famous places.

Of course that industry is dead. Partly that is due to changes in trademarks and intellectual property (who owns the rights to a building’s image?), and partly that is due to the Internet.

28 Ray Lopez February 4, 2016 at 5:06 am

@LK – you’d get a kick out of the movie by A. Hitchcock, “Rear Window”, where the protagonist is a photographer, and the movie has some interesting panoramic shots.

29 Shawan February 5, 2016 at 12:34 pm

To be fair, I don’t have much liking with Stock, so not too much I can say on this. I love doing Forex trading, I feel it is a wonderful business and makes trading so good, so that’s why I love doing it and what’s more there is quality brokers like OctaFX, as they help big time especially with their top draw facilities including low spreads starting from just 0.1 pips for all major pairs plus much more to help us.

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