by Rebecca Parker
Perhaps no one else in the world would notice that the man in the background of the picture, the one barely visible there behind the forklift, should be wearing a hard-hat. No one except the client -and that's the one who matters. So the photograph, the one that took five hours, four assistants and ten rolls of film to obtain, will never grace the annual report as originally intended.
But the photograph’s useful life doesn't necessarily end with this rejection. It may enter one of the commercial collections of photographs available for lease or sale. Such collections are called "stock photography- or "available images", the difference usually being a matter of attitude or marketing.
There are various users of stock photography, including advertising agencies, designers, book publishers, magazines, trade publications, and businesses. They use the photographs in various ways, for instance, in ads, brochures, annual reports, slideshows, calendars, and textbooks.
To track down just the right image, one might start with a generalized stock photography supplier. There arc eleven in the Houston phonebook, four of them out of town. The local stock suppliers range in quality from "Well, it's a photograph, isn't it?" to quite good.
The Stockhouse provides a good example of how Houston stock suppliers operate. The Stockhouse brokers the work of nearly 100 photographers, each of whom receives 50 percent of the fees their photographs generate. On hand are over 80,000 slides, carefully catalogued by subject. For a research fee of $35 (credited toward the rental rate if a slide is selected), one may peruse their files. If the sought-after photograph is found, a rental fee ranging from $125 to $2,000 is negotiated, depending upon both the image and the intended use. No purchases are allowed. If color separations are required, the original transparency is let out. Otherwise, the Stockhouse will provide reproduction dupes.
There are also single-photographer stockhouses. The photographers themselves support these businesses and keep all The receipts. They are likely to charge more than the generalized stock-houses for the use of a photograph, with fees ranging from about $250 up to several thousand dollars.
If the perfect image cannot be obtained through the commercial or single-photographer stockhouses, one may poll commercial photographers. Many photographers, known as assignment artists, are also willing to open their files or even their computer terminals. Again, the research fee is standard and there are no set use fees. The varying complexity and uniqueness of such photographers' assignments create rates that may fall anywhere between reasonable and the moon.
The specialist photographers in town may provide the quickest access to the desired photograph, or serve as a last resort. Harper Leiper sells aerial photographs. Their 10,000 in-stock aerials arc constantly updated and fetch $45 each for the first copy, much less for multiples of the same view. For photographs of Houston real estate, one might try any of the commercial photographers who work exclusively with skylines and architectural portraits.
Historical insights of Houston are the forte of Bob Bailey Studios in The Heights. This shop began doing newsreels and stills for theater chains over 60 years ago. They have over 500.000 unique vintage photographs, many of old-time celebrities. These can he had for S20 for 8x10 prints and 3100 for 16x20 prints.
The need for stock photography in Houston is shown by the large number of sources. Stock photography makes possible the use of an unusual image which would cost too much if shot by a hired photographer. But it should he noted that one's first reason for shopping stock suppliers — low cost - is not always justified.