Andy Saunders directs the creation of imagery and footage at Getty Images. Working closely with photographers, filmmakers and art directors globally, he plays a critical role in ensuring that the company is continually evolving and provides fresh relevant content. His foresight into cultural and societal trends that shape visual communications drives the creative offering. GDUSA interviewed Andy about his thoughts on the survey and we have captured his responses below. 

“I’ve been with Getty Images since it’s inception in 1995 and it certainly has been an exciting journey. As the market leader, we’ve experienced, absorbed and then built on the impact of all the changes reflected in your survey. I’d like to think we’ve forced up the quality of the imagery and customer service across the industry. We’ve also made a lot of photographers wealthier along the way. Looking to the future we’ll continue to put the customer’s needs and workflows first. These are inevitably changing so we are developing new business models that anticipate new ways of providing content to our customers.”

GDUSA: To what do you attribute the almost universal use of stock imagery by creative professionals?

AS: The combination of the advances in technology and the growth of social media have placed imagery as the universal language of the 21st century. The evolution of digital cameras and now mobile devices has permanently changed the way we communicate with each other. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that people who want to communicate about their products or services are using more and more imagery to do so. On the availability of content, for the same reasons it’s also now far easier for talented photographers, whether amateur or professional, to make content available for commercial use.

GDUSA: Do you accept the premise that society is more visually hungry, demanding and sophisticated than ever?

AS: Absolutely. Our familiarity with imagery means that we are no longer as easily surprised by imagery as we once were. That is an exciting place to be for creators and customers. The fact that more imagery is being produced means that there is a wider choice of styles, aesthetics and ideas from photographers trying to interpret an idea or a concept.

GDUSA: Are you seeing any major shifts in subjects or content that creatives are licensing?

AS: In the past, the stock industry has been criticized by the broader visual community for a lack of authenticity and that is something we are keen to change. This is an area where we’ll see rapid improvement, and that certainly is already the case for Getty Images. We’ve had a huge amount of success with our support of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean-In organization in specifically creating and commissioning imagery that better reflects the roles women are playing in society.

These are not images that patronize, but are more reflective in their subject matter and execution of our living reality. We have a team dedicated to researching visual and social trends, their mission is to understand which of these trends are relevant to our customers or understanding ‘what needs to turn into a picture’ We feed that information into our Creative teams and the broader contributor base.

GDUSA: Do you see significant changes in how and where creatives acquire visuals? The numbers seem to suggest a continued preference for desktop and laptop, with some small movement toward tablet and smartphone.

AS: That is consistent with what we are seeing, but without getting into a long-winded commentary about changing work habits we believe that offering customers access to our imagery at all times is very important. In fact this summer, we just re-launched our iStock and Getty Images apps that provide vastly improved usability, features and access to our content. If imagery is the language of the 21st century, then ideas and visual solutions to work tasks can be happening at all times.

GDUSA: Do any of the survey results particularly surprise you?

AS: I was a little surprised at the overwhelming doubts around crowd sourced and mobile imagery. Admittedly there are issues with quality … however this imagery does sometimes provide viable alternatives in terms of a more realistic and authentic feel. Obviously the imagery has to be released for commercial use, but we are seeing a gradual raised awareness in the community for those legal issues. For me the addition of crowd-sourced or ‘street‘ imagery to our collections is a positive factor as it can provide amazing one off moments that don’t feel over-thought or ‘produced’.

Discover the results of the GDUSA 28th Annual Stock Visual Survey on the GDUSA website or you can view our summary of the eight key takeaways.