Photography: Special Report

It's all very well for the A-listers of photography (page 29), with their near-celebrity status and shoot schedules running into 2007, but for most photographers, working in advertising is not the gravy train of old.

The steady slide of budgets has meant ad agencies are not prepared to pay the silly money that the likes of David Bailey and Mario Testino can demand. Increasingly, they are not prepared to pay for a photographer at all, opting for a picture library instead.

Corbis, Getty and their rivals are amassing ever-larger collections to suit the needs of any ad idea imaginable. Creatives spend less time sniffing about picture libraries as a cop-out or a last resort, and more time ploughing through the millions of images at their disposal at the click of a mouse.

Photographers, and some art directors too, argue that picture libraries dumb down advertising - an art director's idea is cheapened the second they pick up the phone to an image-making giant with little knowledge of advertising.

Some say picture libraries are to blame for a dip in the quality of print and poster ads. Art directors get close, but not close enough, to the image they really want by using a picture library. They're too busy fretting about the time and budget they have left for the TV ad, photographers moan.

Photographers are fighting back by innovating. They now refer to themselves as image-makers, using technology to create unusual effects that are hard to copy. Even camera phones have their place. Laurie Haskell, a commercial photographer for 40 years, took a picture of Draft's creative director, Arthur Parshotam, using his phone. "Mobiles are a kind of impressionistic technology," Haskell muses. "If Seurat had not used paint, perhaps he would have mixed pixels."

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