Stock Photos ARE Art

These days, the internet is so populated with “corny stock photo” and “worst stock photo” lists that some people forget one simple fact.  Stock photos are art.  Yes, there is a whole lot of bad stock imagery out there if you look in the wrong places or don’t know how to select the right photos for your project.  Yes, there are some stock photos that probably never should have been taken.  But the few bad examples that end up on lists aren’t representative of stock photography on the whole, and don’t do justice to the more artistic stock photos out there.  Here are three reasons why stock photos are art.

  1. Stock Photographers are Artists


For a long time now, photography has been recognized as an art form and a medium, and some of the most prolific and celebrated artists of the past century are photographers.  If you ever doubt the merit of artistic stock photos, remember that stock photographers are artists too.  Capturing a perfect stock photo is an artistic endeavour, and the people who capture them must use an artist’s eye.  Many stock photographers are art school graduates and experienced professionals in their own right.  All good stock photographers are artists.

  1. Artistic Stock Photography is Guided by Aesthetic Principles and Trends

Just like all other artistic mediums, stock photography can be judged along aesthetic principles, and follows aesthetic trends.  The most artistic stock photography out there can be placed alongside photographs in any art gallery in the world and stand up.  And that’s because the best stock photographers out there hold themselves to a high artistic standard, and finely tune their aesthetic statements when producing imagery.  Take any piece of art from any era, and you can judge it based on its aesthetic beauty.  And stock photos are no exception.

  1. Stock Photography is Artistically Curated

The best stock photography sites on the web don’t just accept stock photography submissions from anyone.  Just like museums, good stock photography libraries are artistically and professionally curated, with a knowledgeable and discerning authority deciding what is good enough to make the cut.  Some libraries don’t have professional curation, which is how “corny stock photo” lists get drawn up in the first place.  But when sites do rely on artistic curation, they help prove again that stock photos at their finest are art.  Curators use aesthetic principles to discern good from bad stock photography, like curators of any medium do when accessing art.  And the artistic stock photos that make the cut help give stock photography a good name.

  1. Stock Photography can Communicate

Whenever the question is asked “what makes art art?” communication comes up.  Art communicates emotion, communicates a statement, and communicates whatever vision an artist wants to get across.  And the best stock photography can communicate all of that and more.  Some stock photography is admittedly entirely commercial, and can communicate whatever an advertising agency or small business owner hopes to adapt it to.  But lots of the most artistic stock photography out there inherently communicate emotion themselves.  Browse a good stock photo library, and some images will make you feel a hint of melancholy.  Some will make you feel the artist’s happiness.  Just like any other medium, stock photography can communicate.

  1. It Takes More Than Luck to Take the Perfect Photo

Since the proliferation of phones with cameras, lots of people consider themselves to be “photographers.”  But it takes a lot more than a camera to be a photographer, just like it takes a lot more than luck to create a piece of art.  Good stock photographers take a lot of time to plan their shots.  They take things like lighting, equipment, and subject into account before snapping a picture.  Then, they spend time in post production, tuning up and refining their product until it meets the artistic vision they originally laid forth.  The amount of technique, forethought, and intention that goes into capturing a great stock photo helps prove that stock photos can be art, and that it takes more than luck to take the perfect photo.

Despite all of the arguments above that help prove that stock photography can be art, some doubters will point out a handful of reasons why the medium should be discounted.  They might point to the commercial nature of stock photos and claim that art isn’t designed for mass distribution like stock photography is.  But these doubters forget about Andy Warhol, possibly the most celebrated photographer of the 20th century, who labeled his own works “commercial.”  Doubters might point out the fact that stock photography is a relatively new medium, while forgetting that at one time Jazz was a new art form too.  If you keep your mind open, review the reasons above, and give stock photography a chance, you’ll find that stock photos can be art.

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