19 Jun 2015 The Rise of Stock Bashing

It’s easy to bash stock, and it’s becoming cool to do so.

Most stock is ‘stocky’: very unrealistic, evenly lit and everything perfect.  But today’s culture is all about authenticity, reality, flaws and spontaneity.   So people like to see stocky stock get mocked, and people like to be seen mocking it.

It’s the Customers’ Fault

Customers have historically purchased images with very little reality in them, so we’ve shoot the utopian perfection that’s become the stocky look.  We’ve been trained to do so by the patterns of buyers, and all those lists of top selling images.

Customers also buy cliches, so we continue shooting more of them too.

But things are starting to turn.  Cameras in mobile phones, and filter apps like Instagram, have brought in a new aesthetic and pushed forward a trend towards authenticity.  Photos shot on a mobile phone are raw and don’t lend themselves to evenly-lit sets with lots of made-up models.

The likes of EyeEm, Scoopshot and others have brought that aesthetic to stock.  So-called ‘mobile stock’.

The intentional artistic direction of the collections at Stocksy and Shutterstock’s Offset are similarly authentic, natural and as far from ‘stocky’ as they can get.

But that authentic stock is not what’s getting bashed in popular culture.  It’s the stocky stuff that brings out the satire and sarcasm.

Sometimes it’s Done Well

The best take I’ve seen to date is The Stock Photobomb Guy.

You’ve likely seen his viral images already.  If not, you’ve been missing out.  Matt Vescovo, an art director and animator in advertising from Los Angeles, inserts himself in stock photos in a way that changes their context, making them hilarious.  His work had great quality and went viral (really) earlier this year.

Matt says his inspiration for the work came from the “surreality” he always felt stock photos show. The forced reality in the stock photos (poses, backgrounds, everything perfect, etc) was what lead him to use Photoshop to virtually “photobomb” stock shots, exposing the false and forced poses of the original.

Stock Eats Stock

Some stock shooters are latching onto the trend.  They bash stock to attract attention to their own businesses.  Except those businesses also provide stock.  It’s just not stocky stock.

Death to the Stock Photo – actually a very well-executed marketing strategy centred around free photos – launched with a campaign appealing to people who were tired of the stocky look and wanted to see stock photos go away.

Twenty20 co-founder and CEO, Matt Munson, provided a classic example with this guest post for TNW predicting the imminent death of stock photos.  Of course the idea that customers buy ‘his’ stock photos instead of the stocky stock they’re currently buying.

Even the Adobe Stock announcement got a cheap jab from Gizmodo, calling Fotolia’s photos “terrible” in the title.

It seems stock is splitting into two factions: those that produce & sell the stocky stock that most buyers buy most often; and those who produce the natural, authentic anti-stock stock that a certain sector of the photo buying community appreciate.

Personally, I love the authentic look much more than the stocky look, so I hope the trend continues.  And if a little stock bashing can help push the buyers and producers in that direction, all the better.  I just wish more of it was done well, like photobombing, and less with derogatory articles or cheap headline shots.

What do you think?

Photos courtesy Matt Vescovo, The Stock Photobomb Guy

  • Eric B
    Posted at 22:13h, 19 June Reply

    Same goes for illustrations. Perfect looking people with symmetry annoy me. There is beauty in the grotesque and many buyers seek it.

  • Bob Ingelhart
    Posted at 13:12h, 27 June Reply

    Great article. Self deprecating humor is always a good thing. One of the best is the Vince Vaughn campaign that iStock did just to make fun of itself a little bit. But, after reading this, I just did a search on my photos that have the keyword “isolated on white” which is about as stocky stock as you can get and that set of images keeps churning out significant income for me. Blame the buy er is right.

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