A designer’s blog, responsibility and value

A Designer’s Blog

I was reading a designer’s blog today. She was advocating that fellow designers stop using iStockphoto for their photography needs because iStockphoto’s prices had risen too high. She pointed out that an image that costs $12.00 to $15.00 at iStockphoto could be licensed from other agencies for $5.00 to $10.00. She went on to point out that iStock’s new commission structure was also unfair to its artists. I think she was missing something very important…and it has nothing to do with royalties paid to artists or photographers.

Photographers, Designers, Art Directors and Responsibility

As I was reading this call to boycott iStockphoto I kept thinking that her whole premise is skewed. I believe that as a professional stock photographer I have a responsibility to provide great images that solve communication problems and challenges. I owe it to my industry and fellow photographers to produce the best and most creative work I can…not the cheapest images. I would propose that a designer, or art director, or art buyer, has the responsibility to get the best value for their client…not the cheapest picture. You can license the cheapest picture…or heck, shoot it yourself, but that might not be…I would guess probably won’t be…the best image for helping the client’s communication needs get filled. Sure, price plays a role, but that role should be secondary to the client’s best interest. The client’s best interest is in having effective communications!

Limited Possibilities and Compelling Visuals

If $12.00 is too high for this designer to even consider, then she is certainly going to limit the possibilities for having visuals that are actually compelling…that can really help move a prospect towards a favorable action. Designers and art directors (and yes account people and so forth) with this mentality are depriving their clients of getting the best value, and of having advertising and design that truly works. Designers (and art directors, art buyers and so forth) that have such a mind-set are also helping to move the entire industry towards mediocrity and malaise. If photographers can’t earn enough to shoot images with high production value…and potentially limited uses…then when a designer, art director or client needs such an image it won’t be there.

A Photo’s Value Is More Important Than Price

I created an image for a friend of mine to help advertise his house painting business. We put a lot of effort into the image…one of my silly animal photos. Even as a friend I asked for, and got, a thousand dollars for my effort. But the image was worth it. Later, while sharing the success of the mailing with me, he also told me it was the first mailing he had ever done that no one had replied asking to be taken off his mailing list! Now I am not saying that everyone has to spend a thousand dollars or more on their images (though even $50,000.00 for the right image can be a great value), but I am suggesting that the value a client receives is more important than the price paid for an image. I am also suggesting that it is the designer or art director’s responsibility to find an image that offers the best value to a client…even if it costs a staggering…say…$16.00!

About the author

John Lund  has been shooting professionally for over 30 years.  John was an early adopter of Photoshop, first using version 1.0 in 1990.  He began using digital capture in 1994.  John has been active in the stock photography world as a founding member of BLEND IMAGES, and long time contributor to Getty Images, Corbis, and, more recently SuperStock.

John has lectured on digital imaging and stock photography, has been a columnist for PICTURE and DIGITAL IMAGING magazines, and written ADOBE MASTER CLASS, PHOTOSHOP COMPOSITING WITH JOHN LUND.  John has been a frequent speaker at Photo Plus and other venues and has taught workshops at Palm Beach Workshops and Santa Fe Workshops.  His work can be seen at www.johnlund.com

Marco | Editor

Editor at large and founder of a bunch of stockphoto businesses