As I sat there after a pitch one morning surrounded by scamps and mood boards, trying to work out how it was physically possible to get so much marker on my hands, and wondering whether the client noticed, it got me thinking.

What happened to the days when a concept didn’t have to be based around stock photography?

Why do I, and so many other Art Directors and designers have to sit there and slavishly trawl through stock libraries to find shots that, at best are a compromise on the considered crafted concepts we have worked so hard to produce?

And why, when the client has picked a concept that has totally nailed the brief, do we have to head back to the studio and fire up

Is it the agencies not pushing the value of commissioning their roster of very talented photographers to capture exactly what was proposed perhaps?

Is it the clients not having the budget, time or experience of being involved in, or even knowing the 10000 reasons why commissioned photography would be the best option?

Or is it, dare I say, the new breed of Art Director and creatives that just think that’s the way it’s done these days?

Well, I think it’s a bit of a combination of all of it.

Stock photography companies have been busy analysing their data from the last few years to predict what imagery trends will come out on top this year.
And unsurprisingly a mixture of creativity and authenticity are expected to dominate 2018’s biggest image trends. Thousands of creatives all around the world are banging words like ‘authentic’,’real people’, ‘unfiltered’ and ‘real life’ into the search bar, which kind of speaks for itself really.

Clients, creatives and brands alike are craving authentic, emotive and real images. If you don’t get out there and shoot them yourself with the right photographer, models and Art Directors you are going to be spending a lot of time and money trying to find the handful of images that hit the brief out there in stock land.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for stock imagery and as a working commercial Art Director, I know only too well, some of the time it’s the only choice as much as it frustrates me.

Fantastic work is produced daily using stock libraries, but in my humble opinion it could be dramatically enhanced by getting exactly what you want, completely bespoke to the brand, that no one else owns and for surprisingly less than you think budget wise.

Budgets are always going to be a sticking point for clients and agencies.

Why would they want to spend hundreds or thousands of pounds on bespoke photography when they can get something for next to nothing?

This isn’t always the case though. I caught up with a photographer mate I hadn’t shot with for a while, and he proceeded to tell me a story about a client wanting shots of cities all across the globe for a project.

They’d had a quote from a stock library for in excess of £60,000, once you factored in licencing and an enormous amount of post to get them all looking like a set.

My mate told me he offered to fly around the world and get the exact shots they needed for nearly half the price.

What did the client do?

They still went with the stock shots.

So is it a trust thing?

Is it simply just not knowing the value of bespoke photography that’s tailored to your brand?

Is it that as an industry in this hyper saturated digital age where things happen instantly and then disappear, there isn’t any value or time investing in it?

I couldn’t work it out, and neither can any of my fellow photographer’s and creatives.

My hope is, in this time of stock imagery flux and the digitally saturated world we live in, it will, eventually, come full circle and brands and agencies will get back to the days of creating authentic, real, crafted campaigns born from creative department's imagination and shot by the raft of talented photographers out there, not what they can find out there in stock land.

And as I got back to the important task of getting the black marker off my hands before my daughters thought I had contracted some kind of infectious disease, I hoped the huge amount of talented creatives everywhere would spread the word to clients and fellow creatives that stock imagery isn’t the only answer to every brief put on your desk.

Ben Keylock
Senior Art Director


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