Do Art Directors Use Ridiculous Concept Images?

Posted on 1/25/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (8)

When the Huffington Post starts lampooning what they call “Ridiculous Stock Photos” will art directors judge the concepts as something to avoid in the future? Check out these three stories.

We decided to check out how frequently such concepts have been purchased by iStockphoto’s customers. On the subject of “business people doing yoga” the five top selling photographs have been downloaded a total of more than 2,600 times.

When we checked out “people looking shocked in front of computers” we found that the five top selling photographs had been downloaded a total of more than 5,300 times. But we hit the jackpot with “doctors with crossed arms.” On iStockphoto alone, the five top selling photos have been downloaded a combined total of more than 16,500 times, an average of 3,300 times per photo.

Maybe photographers should watch the Huffington Post to figure out what to shoot, not what to avoid.

Copyright © 2011 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Ellen Boughn Posted Jan 25, 2011
    I don't care! If I see another photo of business people at the starting blocks of a footrace, I'll retch on my laptop. Well I better retract that threat as I'll probably see such a photo today.

    Seriously isn't it part of our job not to chase the visually ordinary but to encourage the visual literacy of our clients and customers by providing new and more authentic versions of common themes? The more s**t we provide, the more s**t gets shoveled.

  • Jon Feingersh Posted Jan 25, 2011
    Actually the comments for the photos are pretty funny. And the pictures are so bad they deserve to be pilloried. I myself am shocked, shocked, that anyone would steal my original idea and copyrighted pose of a doctor with his arms crossed!!

  • Dean Siracusa Posted Jan 25, 2011
    Ellen, with the amount of imagery available on the internet today, there really is something for everyone. And, if you're a photographer looking to make a living at stock photography it would be wise to create work that you think will make the most money. If that means more pictures of business people at starting blocks, so be it.

    It's funny when those in the photo industry think they're going to somehow change the mind of an art director who's looking for an image to fit a concept they've already gotten approved.

  • Shannon Fagan Posted Jan 25, 2011
    It's interesting to observe here in China, the vast difference in creativity and uniqueness between top images added to art directors' lightboxes vs. top images actually bought and downloaded. I don't believe that any site in the industry allows for a search by "top lightbox images" as opposed to "top sold"...the disparity is revealing as to what is on buyers' minds.

  • Dean Siracusa Posted Jan 25, 2011
    Shannon, that's a very interesting point. I wonder if there's ever a trend towards top sold from old top lightbox images.

    That might actually show what art directors like versus what they need for their current project. That might be helpful if it were possible.

  • John Harris Posted Jan 26, 2011
    Stock is the very opposite of real photography -- ubiquitous, uninformative and uninformed, truly the lowest common nominator, fantastic!

  • Leslie Hughes Posted Jan 26, 2011
    In all my years in stock, I was always surprised by the " most sold" and images that sold for the highest dollar. Most often a basic image, or image with a "subtle" concept that would hit you over the head. All seemed to speak to the imagination of the ultimate customer more than the art director, I think. Worries me what they must think about their own customers! But telling when you target your efforts.

  • Jim Pickerell Posted Jan 28, 2011

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