Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Why You Should Create Your Own Stock Photo Library

Use personal or original pictures

Flickr is a photo storage and sharing site that is part of the Yahoo! family of companies.  In 2013 Flickr announced that each account would have an unprecedented amount of storage for free:  1 terrabyte (that's 1,000 gigabtyes).  Most smart phones and tablets have 32 to 128 gigabytes of storage.  A article from 2007 featured the headline, "2-billion photos on flickr."  Towards the end of 2013 (when this book was written), there were over six billion photos stored on Flickr.  According to a different article from 2011, Facebook has an estimated 60 billion photos.  Clearly, today, there are billions of photos online.  The statistics above only include Flickr and Facebook.  Instagram, Picasa, Photobucket, and Tumblr are also popular photo sites.

Stock photography

In addition to the photo sharing sites mentioned above, there are also a number of websites dedicated to stock photography and clipart.  Stock photos are those taken by professional photographers and available to a variety of online and print uses.  Some stock photos are free but many others cost from a few pennies to several dollars to download based on the file resolution and intended use.  Microsoft used to have a well-organized and large clip art collection which included photos and line drawings.  However, Microsoft now directs users to the Microsoft-owned search engine,

Challenges of stock photography

A challenge faced by anyone who wants to use any of the billions of available photos or images is that photos are considered to be copyrighted by the photographer unless designated otherwise using a creative commons license or in the public domain.  While many presenters violate copyrights and use images anyway, it is illegal to use photos without permission.

Another challenge is that stock photography is available to anyone who is willing to search and buy the desired images.  This means that the photos or clip art you choose to use may have already been over-used by others.  Characteristic photos that are seen too often include a multicultural group of business professionals gazing happily into the camera or looking intently into a computer screen.  Another "classic" is a group of people jumping.  Photos of people intently talking or shaking hands are also popular.

Create your own clip art library

Rather than sort through the billions of photos with the hope of finding images to use for free and with permission while simultaneously identifying unique images, why not create your own clip art library?  All of the challenges listed above are minimized or eliminated when you create your own content.

Recently I saw an advertisement for the Apple iPhone boasting that more photos are taken with the iPhone's on-phone camera everyday than any other camera.  Every smart phone has a camera.  The resolution of phone cameras continues to increase with some cameras boasting resolution at 16 or 20 megapixels.  Take advantage of the camera power in your pocket or purse.

Step 1.  Plan for the photos you need.

Like all of the other planning essential for a presentation, thinking about what visuals will enhance your message and what specifically needs to be included in the video.  If you are presenting on a computer-related topic, perhaps someone's hands typing on a keyboard will be beneficial.  If you are need photos of objects such as fruit or clothing, take a trip to the local grocery store or mall.  Study photos that you like and use these as guides for creating your own pictures.

Step 2.  Get permission (sometimes).

There are many places that are public, and you can take photos to your heart's content (generally because exceptions exist).  However, if you plan to take photos in a store and the branding will be recognizable, ask permission of the store owner or manager.  Consensus is mixed on when you need subjects of photos to sign release forms.  My recommendation is that if you used posed photography specifically for the purpose of use in presentations, ask the subjects to fill out a release.

Photo release form


Step 3.  Use an online photo storage/sharing site to organize your pictures. 

In addition to the sites discussed above (Flickr, Picasa, and Photobucket), there are a number of sites designed for professional photographers to showcase their portraits.  The sites usually have free or budget plans that will fit your needs.  I currently have over 3,000 photos on Flickr.  Online sites offer many advantages including protection from physical or technical loss, the ability to add keywords to photos, the ability to create sets and groupings, and privacy settings.

Step 4.  Add titles, tags, and descriptions.

By identifying your photos with titles, tags, and descriptions, you will be able to search through your photos quickly to identify what you need.  While this may not seem important at first, over time you may amass several photos, and forget what you may already have available in your own clip art collection.

Step 5.  Edit your photos.

Numerous photo editing option exist for computers, tablets, and smart phones. 

Step 6.  Walk towards the light.

One secret of professional photography is light.  Photographs taken with good lighting look far better than those taken in dark rooms or using incorrect flash settings.  I know for me, my smart phone takes fantastic pictures outside, but not so much inside.

As you practice taking photos for clip art purposes, your expertise and judgment will increase.  Before you know it, you may have the eye to recognize potential clip art photos wherever you look.

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