The Web has changed photography in so many ways. I’m not just talking about the ability to e-mail images from a shoot, or the fact that tools like Photoshop are becoming online services. I’m talking about the ability of photographers to showcase their portfolios online, to write blogs that explain who they are and what they’re working on, and to stay in touch with each other through social networking systems.
Barely a day goes by now without some new tool being released that can affect the way photographers do their work. Photopreneur, for example, recently did a post on how Twitter, the latest big thing on the Web, could be used by photographers to report from shoots, create anticipation for an outstanding image, and then announce that it’s available for sale, among a bunch of other uses.
That got me wondering. One of the biggest changes the Web has made to photography is in the way stock images are sold. These days, looking through thousands of images and buying just the one or two an art director needs is very easy. There’s no shortage of sites offering stock photos, some taken by pros, others by talented (or not) amateurs. Even Bill Gates got into the game, setting up Corbis.
But considering the rivalry between Apple and Microsoft, what’s to stop Steve Jobs from muscling into stock territory and selling images through iTunes?
In theory, Jobs should be onto a winner. Adding another interface that lets users download stock images as well as music, TV shows or video would be very simple. The site is already designed to sell both complete collections and individual units, which would be perfect for microstock.
And perhaps most important of all to photographers, it’s a tool that’s familiar to the sort of people who typically use images without paying for them: bloggers.
The big benefit that iTunes has brought to the music industry has been the ability for music-lovers to make small purchases of single songs instead of buying whole albums. That has enabled it — together with some tough legal enforcement — to fight back against online music piracy. Being able to quickly and easily download stock images via iTunes could have a similar effect on the photography business.
Does that mean iTunes is going to start offering stock photography? I haven’t heard that it is. But it would certainly send shockwaves through the industry — and Jobs has been known to relish such moments.
Particularly when he can irritate Bill Gates in the process.
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