Just a quick rant today.
The proliferation of poor stock photos or stock photos used poorly has reached its culmination.
Someone figured out that people are drawn to pictures. Those same people figured out if they wanted their text read by casually browsing readers, that a photo could grab some attention. They started sticking stock photos at the top of their blogs. Sometimes the photos actually have something to do with the subject matter, sometimes they are only peripherally connected. I believe a cat has little to do with Extended Warranty but the desperate-to-be-read folks at the Consumerist blog seem to think so.
Or maybe they just hope the cute will buy them an extra look.
Lately there has been a more disturbing trend. Pictures that have nothing to do with the article – even peripherally. Sometimes they just take a sticky note and write a word on it – a word that will provoke a reader – hopefully.
Yesterday, I saw the best effort yet.
Yes, the story is about bathroom vandalism and a disgusting read too. Rather than even find a useless stock image of a restroom, or a door, or a sign, they left this stupid graphic. The graphic, however, is full of implications:
Was the story so provocative that no picture could do it justice? Not likely. They put cute little pigs on slaughterhouse stories and other incongruities. Inappropriateness of a graphic has never stopped them before.
Was the graphic carefully crafted to titillate the reader and get them to read an ‘inappropriate story’. Not likely. It isn’t that titillating a story. And the graphic just made me wonder about their convoluted design process.
Do the Bots that build their articles and posts (or find them in syndication) not understand the story well enough to pick a keyworded graphic? This belongs in the realm of conspiracy theory. But, it begs the question – are automated processes picking the graphics? Not likely but it could happen…
Are they just phoning it in at this point? I tend to think this is the real reason. Laziness or apathy resulted in a placeholder graphic that fails to add to the story but it does say something about the state of photography today.
Photo editors used to choose meticulously from a small palette of imagery. If nothing was right, they commissioned it. Then stock came. Large numbers of ‘close-enough’ images were available for cheap. Next step in the descent was the remotely-close-for-free group of images. Now, it is splash anything with color or contrast to attract attention – content be damned.
The world of photography is somewhere in between those last two stages. It will be a poorer world soon.
Rikk Flohr © 2012