The HOW conference was quite a learning experience for everyone working my booth. I helped pass out postcards and fun buttons and guitar picks with three other artists and my rep, Scott Hull. It was interesting to talk to the designers and art directors attending the conference. It seemed like about a third of them didn't know how to use illustration or how to work with an illustrator. I asked what they used instead and the most common response was "stock photography". Good grief, that's disappointing. And unoriginal. These stock photography places have just infiltrated the field... making it so easy to just slug through the correct demographic ("I need a shot of a 50-year-old woman, brown hair with glasses."), slap down their company credit card ("Here's my measly $300."), adjust the color slightly and crop just so ("Looks original enough."), and there goes your ad or brochure or whatever.
It's really discouraging.
I've been guilty of it too. I have done some freelance art direction and used stock photography (because that's what the creative director said to do). And it just feels wrong to me. It feels like you are just trying sell your product to your audience, without really giving them your best creative work... or giving your audience credit to be smart people who can tell the difference. I think it's better to speak to your audience as peers, and not just try to sell them anything and everything...
I mean, what happens if they see that same photograph on some competing product a year later when your usage right expires? I think the target audience would feel bad... feel like they've been duped. Like it was false advertising. "Hey! That smiling 50 year old face told me to buy Liz Claiborne glasses last year and now that same photograph is telling me to dye my hair brown with Clairol products."
I really hate the idea of just trying to sell any old idea or concept to an audience without giving them your best. Without coming up with something original and thought out... your best solution... not just *a* solution.
Commissioning new art or photography makes such a difference, in my opinion. You can really tailor the art or photograph to your product. You can be original and have brand recognition because you stand out... You can commission a beautiful piece of art that will be remembered and not just passed by in a daze of same-looking pieces. I think original art helps your audience trust in your product... that you're not just trying to sell them something to make a buck. People are smart! They get it!
And for purely selfish reasons: original art and photography keeps artists and photographers in business. And keeps us on our toes... trying our best to create something beautiful that will stand out and be noticed and hopefully make the environment that people walk through everyday a prettier place. A place where it's not just in-your-face advertising or ho-hum visuals... a place where people can look at original art... or a beautiful photograph and feel like those guys "really got it". Like they really spoke to just me. That's so important.
Stock photography! Bah!