[Fstoppers Exclusive Interview] Death to the Stock Photo Gives Subscribers Images: For Free

[Fstoppers Exclusive Interview] Death to the Stock Photo Gives Subscribers Images: For Free

Death to the Stock Photo is a Columbus, Ohio based stock photo agency created by Allie Lehman and David Sherry that was founded in 2013. Every month they release high-quality, high-res, un-watermarked, and virtually un-restricted themed image packs — for free. Sound crazy? Here's their story.

Earlier this week I met up with the founders of Death to the Stock Photo (henceforth, DTS) to talk business, inspiration, and stock photos. Allie and David are both self-taught photographers who work in the design sector and find inspiration in photographing the — sometimes pedestrian — aspects of normal life. The duo partnered up to found Death to the Stock Photo last year, since then they've grown it into a vibrant community of subscribers and have worked with several guest photographers to release over 20 image packs (as of 4/17/2014). Death to the Stock Photo's images have already been picked up by big companies such as BufferMediaFireOlle Ota (Tumblr themes), Start Bootstrap, and Graphic Monkee.
Below are images from DTS photo packs, all of which were available for free at one point or another.
FS: What inspires your personal photography and the images you feature in DTS?
I get inspired by people who are just complete naturals at what they do. My favorite photographer in fact is only about 17 years old, and the work he produces is just so natural. He's not trying for anyone but himself and the subject matter he shoots is so personal and real.
I heard a quote recently about that, ‘if you want to now what someone cares about look at what they photograph.' I love shooting the people I care about, getting candid moments.
FS: What is Death to the Stock Photo?

Once a month, typically the first or second, we email our subscribers a link to download ten high quality, high resolution images that come in a themed pack. For use however you like. Free.

FS: How did it come about?
David and I worked together on a design project last year, somewhere along the line he and I talked about how frustrating it is to have [hundreds] of images on our hard drives that people would never see. Since he and I had worked in design for a while we knew there was a need for unique, high-quality images for bloggers and websites.
I think [we] decided to release our photos after I knew I had a bank of them in my dropbox just sitting there, when my friends could have been creating amazing things with them.
And thus Death to the Stock Photo was born. Their mission, to share their work and empower bloggers and creatives through the free use of high quality, unique images. Along the way, DTS has partnered with five otherphotographers who have volunteered their services producing photos for the subscribers.
FS: What irritates you the most about stock photos?

We’re not out to stop stock photos, far from it. We are looking to help out people looking for images as unique as they are.


I think what's special [about our images] is how unplanned some of it will be. Whereas with stock, it's at the opposite end of the spectrum and is 'too planned' with how it's created. No cheesy poses, just real life captured through the lens. So I'm not even sure what we'll get with some of it, but that's the fun of it.

The DTS website reflects this sentiment, their mission statement reading:

Stock doesn't just relate to photography, stock is doing the average, the boring or inauthentic. We're out to make something special for creatives to be a part of. We're on a never ending quest for authenticity. We intend to lead by making products and stories that move you.  Seek to create work that grabs you and make you pause. What has always excited us is building relationships and helping people grow and create.


FS: Why did you choose to give away your images for free?


We knew we wanted to have a free offering to reach out to people who couldn’t afford normal stock photos or places that just wanted to get something different. In addition to our free subscription we do offer a premium subscription which gives users an additional image pack every month. For the time being we’ve limited this group to 500 people [currently full]. For now we’re only taking free subscribers.

FS: What's lisensing images like — what can people do with them?


Anything they like. Print them, post them, share them. There are only a few minor restrictions [such as brand endorsement] please check out the full license for the nitty-gritty.

FS: Are there any exciting image packs coming up?


We’re currently raising money for a five-city-tour that will give subscribers five exclusive packs from Chicago, Big Sur, NYC, Seattle, and Nashville. We limited the number of subscribers for this set to 500 and have about 80 left. [The trip can be supported here]


FS: Where do you see DTS going in the next few years?


What's interesting about DTS is that although we've had a mission and goals with it I don't believe we have a very rigid direction. Early on we interacted with our subscribers for feedback on what they'd want next, and will likely continue to try and be the best resource we can for them. If tastes change and there's a new problem we can solve for them I think we adapt quickly. I'd love to empower more photographers and artists, as well as give them more exposure so that will hopefully come to fruition in some form or another. Otherwise we plan on staying authentic and open with our members.


To keep up with the guys at Death to the Stock Photo be sure to check out their website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

If you want to be a part of the magic and receive your free monthly image packs be sure to sign up.

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If they gave away free cameras and lenses I would give gladly consider giving them free files; since last I checked utility companies, landlords, grocery stores, etc... don't take "artist's integrity" as a form of currency.

How do they make money?

Austin Rogers's picture

They also have a premium subscription side that gets an additional image pack every month.

James Nedresky's picture

Interesting! And for those who think that the old model of selling stock for what it's worth in order to keep "professionals" in business, think again. The relatively few who could formerly make saleable imagery has now ballooned into untold voluminous numbers. As a result, supply now outdistances demand by the trillions. Oversaturation has also helped in "dumbing down" the market, making most anything acceptable if it suits the needs (and costs) of the user. It's often better to just get the images out there, even just for the hell of it.
Think about it... If all of a sudden there was a cure for cancer that just about everyone had access to and could treat with a few gadgets, how many "cancer specialist physicians" would still be making the big bucks?
News videos from third world countries? No problem! Just get one from the guy on the street with a cell phone. Twenty bucks? Sure! It's changing, big-time.

You sound very happy about the death of the industry. Perhaps you think it will evolve into something else? Or will you (assuming you are part of the industry, making money from photo/videography) be more likely to complain the way American workers did when manufacturing began to be outsourced to foreign countries where wages are a mere percentage of US salaries?

It would be interesting to see how Fstoppers will look like in 5 years' time.

James Nedresky's picture

No, I'm not happy about this, I'm saying that the "industry" is changing rapidly, and anone who thinks they can get by as they did even 5 years ago is just kidding themselves. Not complaining, just willing to move with the changes, as we all should be.

I thought this was a bussines model like facebook where the service is for free and the money comes from ad revenue. That model could also work.

Sounds like the only ones not making money here are the photographers. Knock yourselves out, guys.

David Liang's picture

I was just thinking the same. Ok they are taking it to Getty. They are benefiting users of stock photos. The irony is the ones producing the images are still left out to dry.

Since when are Buffer, MediaFire, Olle Ota (Tumblr themes), Start Bootstrap, and Graphic Monkee., considerers to be big companies?

Nothing in life is truely free......... something somewhere suffers the lie!

These guys are fucking idiots! I might start a website called "Death to ignorant freeloaders aka Allie Lehman and David Sherry"

First they killed off the photojournalists. Then they killed off wedding photo/videographers. Next they are killing off stock photographers.

Could Fstoppers do an article listing out all available photographic niches to make it easier for people to kill off every single market out there? And then celebrate the kills by writing glowing articles about each one? Please?