Bespoke Stock Vendors

Mara Serdans Posted by Mara Serdans on Aug. 11, 2014

Let’s say you’re looking for a premium image, but you don’t have the budget or time for a full-scale production. Searches on well-known stock image sites come up dry. Or, maybe you’re just looking for something that doesn’t look like “stock.” Well, you might be in luck. A new crop of stock vendors has emerged in the market, the kind that promises made-to-order services. No more having to scour sites for obscure images that just don’t cut it. So how do these sites work? Here’s a round-up of a few different vendors who are here to help your get exactly what you’re looking for.

ImageBrief lets you do just that. You, the buyer, create a brief outlining your needs. E.g., “I’m looking for an image of a cat wearing a bow tie and glasses, sitting in front of a TV looking bored. Prefer a chubby tabby cat, if possible. It should be shot from a side angle perspective so that the viewer can tell the TV is on.” The next step is to tell the photographers how much money you want to spend, followed by your deadline and usage desired. The brief also allows you to add reference images. After that, you patiently watch the magic happen. The brief is sent out to photographers across 100 countries. ImageBrief sends you daily updates and lets you pick your favorites so that you can share them with creatives. Once you select the image(s) you want, it only takes a few clicks to purchase and download. ImageBrief also includes curated collections of pre-existing images with clever titles such as, “Ooh Baby Baby” and “Art of the Selfie.” The selection is mixed and covers a wide range of styles. You can even view other briefs that have been awarded. The site also gives you the option to “follow” photographers, check out their work/profiles, and contact them for jobs. I’ve used it a bunch of times and have successfully licensed a handful of images on-demand.

- Update: As of March 1, 2018 ImageBrief is no longer in business -

Visit the ImageBrief Website

Snapwire works in a similar fashion. When you’re ready to submit your brief, Snapwire offers a blank “ad lib” type section – e.g., I need photos of (title of your request). I need them in X days for X client, company or use. Used for XX (web) and my budget is $100 per photo. From that point on, you’re prompted to the descriptive section which allows you to add information about photo styles/categories, a short description, creative direction (e.g., photos should not look stock or posed. No filters or fisheye lenses. Should convey warmth.), and a section for inspirational images.

Much like ImageBrief, Snapwire also includes a collection of pre-existing images. What’s different is that Snapwire includes a search engine. I ran a search for apple pie and a handful of accurate results came up followed by many more images of Apple iPhones, iPads, and the like. Looks like iPhones are more popular than apple pie. The site includes a section for browsing photographers. Within this tab, you can follow photographers and invite them to be part of your image request. Each photographer also has a page that includes an artist statement and samples of work. The photographers are grouped into different levels including explore, shooter, advanced, pro, expert, elite. The idea is that photographers earn points through their success on the site. Each level has it perks that gets a photographer more exposure and the ability to work directly with top buyers. Higher levels unlock rewards that help photographers become a Pro. It’s a clever way to offer incentives and keep photographers shooting for the site.

Visit the Snapwire Website

With Cavan Images, the buyer also provides a description of the image needed. From that point on, Cavan’s producers take over and handle everything from casting, location scouting, shooting and post production. Production time can vary from a few days to a week depending on the complexity of the request. They produce multiple shoots, varying in subject and style tailored to your creative brief. Cavan Images then provides you with a broad range of edited content from which to choose. They even have in-house retouchers who finish your selects. Images can be brand/product inclusive which I thought was a great bonus. Unlike the other sites, you do not set your image price – all images are a fixed, very reasonable, $500 for unlimited use and time. Exclusivity is included for the first 3 months with the option to extend exclusivity at $500 for every 3 months. I’d say that’s a good deal. The site also includes pre-existing images that can be licensed.

Visit the Cavan Images Website

Sites like these are a fantastic addition to the marketplace and I’m sure we’ll continue to see more emerging competitors. What are your experiences? Have you used these sites as a buyer or photographer? Are there other services you prefer? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Image Credit: Kristina Litvjack, Snapwire