The New Stock Photography

Technology has made the creation and distribution of images so cheap today that it’s amazing what can be had for almost nothing. You can now buy stock photography for as little as one dollar per image over at the newish Dollar Photo Club. There are some caveats: the selection is not vast, the quality is somewhat uneven, and currently you must “apply” for a membership which then costs ten dollars a month. Some will grouse at the pricing, but I remember a time when a single stock photo of no particular greatness might still cost as much as twelve months’ worth of Dollar Photo Club.

If even a dollar is too much for you, you can turn to one of the mushrooming number of free stock photography sites, where the parties responsible—agencies and photographers, mostly—have turned their images into loss leaders for publicity. The best known such destination is probably Unsplash which has earned a reputation for a variety of attractive photographic styles that generally don’t have the stagey, saccharine sheen of standard stock catalogs. Also in this vein are Picography, Superfamous, Gratisography and Little Visuals. These sites are all presented in a blog-like single stream, but Magdeleine organizes photos from several different sources (including some of the above) into themes and even provides a search engine that can sort by color. Again, all free.

There is good stuff to be had on all of these sites, especially if you are in the market for photos with shallow depth of field, tastefully toned color palettes, and a preponderance of “authentic” visual textures: antique wood, thick glass, weathered brick, and maybe some flannel here and there. And don’t forget the vintage cameras and modern laptops, which are freely mixed together as if they were the most natural pairing in the world.

Actually, if that kind of imagery is what floats your boat, the newest of these sites that I’ve come across is probably the best of them all: the aptly named Startup Stock Photos. That site’s images, one of which I’ve excerpted below, are crisply composed and aesthetically impeccable. They also represent the emergent homogeneity of this new chapter in stock photography, where everything is cheap or free and looks like it was either shot inside, nearby, or by an employee of a Brooklyn farm-to-table restaurant.

Startup Stock Photos

Update The Stocks brings together a lot of these sources and a few more in one elegant location, courtesy of the folks at Panda.