Lately there's been a bunch of this on the web, “Budgets aren’t there for custom shoots.” and “Clients have a hard time paying for something they think they can pull off with their iPhone.”
There was a moment at the dawn of desktop publishing where print folks gnashed their teeth over the flyers and brochures that people were churning out of Word, or worse, Print Shop. These homemade posters with fall leaf borders and clipart were showing up in boardrooms all over the world. And then one day they weren't.
Everyone realized that they looked amateur. They looked like you churned this piece out on Thursday afternoon and ran it on your inkjet. Which is what you did. Desktop publishing found it’s place, and it’s a good one, but it didn’t replace a well skilled designer.
The same with photography (and video). The commoditization has increased access, but I don’t believe it’s reduced the perceived value of really great work. Just like Word docs, a snapshot with your phone has a place, a great, and even possibly publicly viewed place. I’ve seen dynamic social media campaigns built around these snapshots. But, snapshots do not replace custom shoots.
Stock photography is the bridge between these two types of images. Stock gives you the ability to do more design work because fantastic images can be had for a fraction of the cost of a custom shoot. Stock allows clients to fund larger campaigns that would be inaccessible otherwise. Stock = Accessibility
We use stock photography in our work. We also do custom shoots (you’ll not find a great portrait of your CEO in a stock site, or if you do you need to have a conversation) and custom illustrations. There are places for each, and in the end these are just more tools available for great design work.