The Life of a Stock Photograph

Each photograph we take has a life of its own. Some are destined to grace advertising campaigns, whilst others will sit in a family album. Out of interest, I decided to try and document the life of one of my most popular stock images - the Eiffel Tower photographed through a Parisian window.

Copyright Craig Holmes.

Copyright Craig Holmes.

This image was shot on a stock trip to Paris a few years back, in order to boost our collection of capital city images. Upon return to the UK, it went through a number of edits in order to give it a more ‘perceived Parisian’ feel, and was then released for sale as a stock image around the globe, both directly from our own stock collection, and via a number of distributors.

After a few months, smaller sales started to appear in European earnings reports. Then the image was sold for its first book cover - a romantic novel titled ‘Hot & Bothered’ by Liz Maverick, and printed by Cosmopolitan Magazine. They even commissioned a designer to add a bra to the door handle, ensuring their was no doubt in readers minds that this was indeed a romantic novel, and at some point lingerie would be removed.

Above are the various uses of the image, from book covers, to sympathy notes on Pinterest.

Shortly after this, there were a number of terrorist attacks in Paris, and somehow, this image of the Eiffel Tower was increasingly used by people showing their sympathy for the families and the city itself.  I lost count of the number of times it appeared on Pinterest, blogs, Tumblr and Twitter. This was a strange turn of events for a photographer - we all like seeing our work ‘out there’, but there was something about this particular usage I found a little weird. 

Of course, once it had appeared on social media so many times, small commercial organisations started taking it for their own websites and blogs, assuming it was free to use commercially (just this morning, whilst researching this article, I found it on a 'wedding planner' website). To this day, I am unsure where the original photo without its watermark was sourced.

Closely following on from these uses, the image was used on another book cover by bestselling author, Ava Miles, titled ‘The Billionaire’s Gamble’. Another romantic novel.  This time, no bra was added to the image.

These are the uses I know of. Of course, being a stock image, it is typical for the image to be sold, and I have no record of its final destination. Such is the nature of our industry, creating images for invisible end users.

I just wish I had retouched out the white van to the bottom of the frame. Even the graphic designer who added the bra forgot to remove the Ford Transit.