Crowd-Sourcing Creativity and Photos

By | October 3, 2013

The Applegate Report

By Jane Applegate

A picture is truly worth a thousand words when it comes to selecting the right image for your company’s ad campaign or web site, according to Rebecca Swift, head of creative planning for iStockphoto. Swift, a recognized international expert on photo trends, was in New York City this week to speak at an event sponsored by Getty Images, the parent company of iStockphoto.

“Every company, from a small one to a major company is using images much more than before—it’s like a runaway horse,” said Small, who is responsible for building image collections, working with photographers around the world and advising clients. “The right photograph can help you reinvent something that is boring if that image conveys the values of your business.”

Today, anyone with a smartphone is a photographer.  In fact, she said people are uploading about 250 million photos a day to Facebook and about 45 million to Instagram. Candid, realistic shots are now more popular than posed photos. (Note: while you are thinking about photography, be sure to buy the current photo-themed issue of National Geographic).

No matter what you do for a living, having an engaging and attractive web site is more important than ever, especially since the average adult spends five hours per day online, up 15.8% over last year, according to a recent study released by eMarketer.

In fact, Swift said the word “business” is actually the number one search term used by visitors to which has more than 30 million images. Both professional and amateur photographers contribute work to the company archive.

Now, anyone can submit photos to the company for consideration.

“The crowd-sourcing model is new,” said Swift. “We now have a hundred thousand contributors who are actively posting images. For some, they want to make a little bit of money…for others, it’s their career.”

iStockphoto started out as a very small business. The company was founded in the early 2000’s by a group of designers as a source of free images.  “This group of designers in Calgary came up with the idea of sharing photos and designs online,” said Swift. “They put them online for free to be downloaded for free. Then, they got bigger and bigger and bought more server space. Then, they started charging a dollar per image.”

In 2006, the founders sold the company to Getty Images.

I asked Swift how a small business owner without formal design training can even start to look for the perfect image for their company. “There are so many images to choose from, you can easily get distracted by images not relevant to your brand,” said Swift. “It’s important to stick to the message you want to convey.”

The best business photos focus on “some kind of human element,” she said. “The person who runs the company may not be the real face of the company—it could be someone on the front desk staff.”

Years ago, if you wanted to use a photograph, you paid the photographer or a stock photo agency a fee to use the picture for a specific purpose and a set amount of time. In the mid-1990s, agencies began to burn multiple images on CDs and sell those as collections. But in the late 1999’s once images could be easily uploaded to the web, consumers started posting and sharing their own photos.

On a related note:  iStock recently released a survey of 404 ‘creatives’ based in the U.S. and U.K. which paints a bleak picture of the so-called creative economy. Lack of inspiration, limited funding and time are three barriers to creativity, according to the survey. Sixty percent of respondents said they had “great ideas” in the last year but not enough time or support to achieve what they wanted. About 70 percent said they wanted more “creative time” and 63 percent said they do not have the time they need for “creative reflection and inspiration.”

Forty-eight percent of those polled said they believe creativity levels have declined or been stagnant and 23 percent said they spend less than two hours of their day doing what they would consider “creative work.”