05. If We Build It, We Will Come

There was a time—just a few years ago, really—when thousands of highly skilled, professional photographers counted on the licensing of their work by stock photo houses to pay a big chunk of their rent. Not anymore. A lethal combination of new technology and crowdsourcing is doing them in.

This is the way it used to work: To illustrate their wares, magazines, ad agencies, corporate publications, and film companies routinely turned to photo agencies that stored collections of shots by professionals. Customers might have to pay fees of $100 or more for the one-time use of a photo, but that was still a lot cheaper than assigning a photographer to do the job. As magazine circulations declined and ad budgets were cut, ...

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