Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian philosopher, who died in 1980, once mused:

“As technology advances, it reverses the characteristics of every situation again and again. The age of automation is going to be the age of ‘do it yourself.”

The perceptive “media is the message” author could have been easily referring to the state of stock photography today. Anyone who can make enough money to support a family on today’s stock photography agency’s business model will make Houdini look like a hack. They would make a contortionist green with envy as the twists and turns to justify contributing to a stock agency. Mores the pity, as stock photography agencies were for many photographers and for many years, a fantastic source of income. Several photographers we knew made most, if not all of their very good living from stock photo sales. But that was in the last century.

These days, stock photography is an untenable business model as an income stream for photographers and other creators who need to make a living from their creative work. Creators have been screwed yet again.

Here’s a link to a story that is yet another nail in an already well secured coffin. If you don’t have time to read it, the title of the article neatly tells the entire story and is the link to the Petapixel article:

Getty Images is Going All Royalty Free, and That Sucks for Photographers

For a very long time we have warned our readers and clients to avoid employing stock agents. There are several articles in this blog and elsewhere in which we discuss the scams, inadequate accounting practices, questionable ethics and the occasional illegal activities engaged in by stock agencies both big and small.

Prior articles centered on the lack of or even fake accounting, unreported licensing, failure to pay creators their true share(s) due on time, double and triple dipping by numerous agencies and sub-agents all claiming a commission on a license and outright theft. We have on many occasions pointed out how pricing by stock agencies to its clients lowers the market value of the photographs and illustrations you create. Stock agencies who are not, as they say in Brooklyn, “strictly legit” are far more concerned with the welfare of their paying clients, those that license images from them, rather than of their creative contributors, or as the stock agencies call us, content providers. But if you read the article linked to, you’ll see that using the word “license” is dying in the stock agency’s lexicon. The word “sell” is replacing it, as in “selling images by the pound” as they are charging by size, not by usage. Time/Life, NBC, Gannet, Fox, Hearst and any/all other media outlets who pay stock agencies for use of your images are more important for an agency to retain than you are.

We have urged those who can, to do their own licensing which permits them to control the nature of the license and the fee paid while retaining all legal rights. The good news is that the digital age made doing so possible. Along with the people who used to make a decent living with stock agencies, we know several photographers who are thriving with their own DIY stock licenses. They must have studied and read Marshall McLuhan.