Out of Stock: AI Corners the Market for Inclusive Images

Stock photography is a crucial tool for marketing agencies and media companies tasked with creating memorable campaigns on tight budgets. However, stock photography has one big drawback: a notorious lack of diverse imagery.

With so much depending on the availability of inclusive imagery, several stock photography houses focusing on diverse offerings have popped up. For example, Allgo focuses on plus-size models, Tonl specializes in photos of people of color, and Nappy offers a collection of photos featuring Black models. Even media company Vice acknowledged the lack of diverse stock options with their Gender Spectrum Collection, which showcases models of different genders and sexualities. The problem with these sites is that they don’t always offer the licensing needed for commercial use, and they still require creatives to spend hours combing through photos, looking for an image that fits the brand’s tone, campaign’s setting, and story’s needs.

With AI becoming a tool for brands to create images they actually want, could this eliminate stock photography in the future?

A new technology

AI programs, like Midjourny, allow anyone with an internet connection and a few dollars to create their desired image in minutes. Users simply type out a specific description of the image they want, and Midjourney delivers it. These programs make it easier to access diverse imagery by drastically reducing the time it takes to procure such images. AI frees up valuable time for creatives to focus more on the nuts and bolts of a campaign instead of scouring stock photo sites for hours and days, looking for the right fit. In addition, AI image programs, like Midjourney, create images that are automatically part of the public domain, eliminating the need for legal review. With this technology, agencies no longer need to spend time reviewing licensing specifications for the needs of each campaign.

The end of a stock era?

While AI continues to improve, glitches still sometimes blemish AI-created images. It’s common to find extra fingers, elongated limbs, and repeated faces when reviewing these images. In contrast, stock photos are pre-vetted by the houses that sell them to guarantee that nothing out of place ruins the pictures they offer. Stock photos also offer a feeling of authenticity, as real people express genuine emotions in the photos. However, that authenticity means little if the photos cannot represent the client’s audience. The advantages of stock photos risk being entirely outweighed by their lack of diversity. If the stock photography houses that sell the images don’t work harder to create more inclusive content, there’s a real likelihood they might lose their clientele as AI programs advance.

What do you think? Would you use an AI image program to replace stock photos in advertising or media campaigns?

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