image of a stock photo website on a computer

Stock Market Crash: AI is About to Destroy the Stock Photo Industry

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Adam Ritchey
Interra Design Studios

NWA Graphic Design Blog

Behold, the looming death of that ubiquitous, symbiotic companion of the graphic design industry — stock photography. After being assured a place in every designer’s toolkit for decades, stock photography will be among the next business models to fall under the relentless steam roller that is Artificial Intelligence.

For every professional designer on the planet, stock photography has been a trusted yet vaugely frustrating friend. But with the advent of AI image creation technology, our vast stock photography databases will soon become obsolete. Just as digital cameras practically destroyed the 150-year-old film and manual camera industries, AI stands ready to erase a staple of the graphic and website design industries.

When taking the long view of AI image creation capabilities, it’s clear we are still in the infancy of this tech. And yet, the capabilities of this first generation of AI image creators is nothing short of astounding. People can already leverage AI to generate photo realistic images with great specificity. “Create an image of a smiling woman with blonde hair in a blue sweater holding a bowl of fruit in a sun-dappled field with butterflies fluttering around her head.” You would be quite lucky to find this exact image on even the largest stock photography websites. But prompts like this are no problem for an AI. In fact, most image AI will deliver multiple versions of this prompt so you have options. And the output arrives faster than the typical designer can visually scan a single page of search results. By every possible metric, AI image engines outperform stock photo websites. The only limiting factor is the designer’s ability to create the prompt which creates the perfect image. But, assuming that’s not a difficult skill to master, even current AI can bring any visual concept to life.

stock photo website on a laptop

As noted, this is all relatively new. And like Moore’s Law of computing, the advancement of this technology will not slow, it will increase exponentially. The forthcoming growth of image AI technology promises to enhance its capacity to generate even more lifelike and tailored images at an increasingly faster rate. The possibilities seem endless.

The implications for the stock photography industry are profound. Stock photography websites and businesses, which have long thrived by offering a vast collection of images for designers, advertisers, and content creators, are faced with a single option — find a way to get in the AI game or die. Those that can adapt will harness its potential to enhance their offerings. By integrating AI-powered tools into their platforms, they can provide users with an even more diverse range of customizable options, augmenting their existing image collections with AI-generated content. But even if the top sites manage to incorporate AI, thousands of stock photography businesses (and the jobs they provide) will disappear in the coming years.

image of a stock photo website on an iPad

Despite the somber forecast for the stock photography industry, it is crucial to recognize the immense possibilities that AI-driven image creation presents. The ability to generate any image imaginable empowers individuals and businesses to bring their creative visions to life. For designers and content creators, AI offers a new realm of artistic expression, where the limitations of stock photography are no longer a concern.

The disruptive power of AI is not new. Throughout history, industries have faced transformation as technological advancements take center stage. The evolution from film to digital cameras revolutionized photography, rendering traditional methods outdated. Similarly, the advent of AI is poised to revolutionize the stock photography industry, reshaping the way visual content is sourced and created.

For those whose livelihoods are in the stock photography business, this is all quite unsettling. But there is still time, albeit very short, to invest heavily in an attempt to harness the power of AI innovation, and redefine their role in the ever-evolving world of visual content creation.

You’ll likely be seeking multiple estimates for your next website or graphic design project. How about we knock one out right now?