David Sherry of Death to the Stock Photo at Serif Shoot

Spotlight: David Sherry

When I first heard of Death to the Stock Photo, I thought my friends were talking about a local DJ or a punk-rock band. Upon further inspection, I found that it was a rather revolutionary stock photo subscription service ran by two of the more motivated/creative people I’ve met in Columbus: David Sherry and Allie Lehman.

In true Columbus fashion, we’ve collaborated with them on several projects, the most recent being a story film showcasing how they got their start. After talking shop with David during a shoot, we decided to ask him a few questions about his company: these are those questions.

Check out the film and then read the the Q & A.

[stag_video src=”https://vimeo.com/110614005″]

How exactly does Death to the Stock Photo work?

We send the highest quality images we can to your inbox every month to inspire you to finish that project or start that new app you’ve been dreaming of. If you’re premium, you can hop into our library of photos and download as you please, plus you get bonus pack each month for being awesome.

Can you describe the genesis of Death to the Stock Photo?

My business partner Allie and I both had experiences where we made something for a client, only to receive imagery to pair with it that was pixelated or inauthentic (you know, that older stock look most people have seen). It just seemed pretty inauthentic. Since we were both hobbyist photographers, we realized we had a ton of imagery just sitting in our dropbox folders not being used and said, “Hey why not share this with our creative peers?”

David Sherry and Justin Howell at Serif Shoot

Although your business has received a lot of praise, can you talk about the resistance you’ve met from the photography world?

Well I’m sure we did that a bit to ourselves with our name! I think most of the resistance has come from people who are more protective over their art and for some reason see what we’re doing as a threat to that identity. What’s interesting to me is that I feel like it’s never been a better time to be a photographer. The web is visual now, and companies NEED great imagery. So, I think people have more opportunities now than ever, even though people look at us and think we’re ‘stealing’ their opportunities. For us, we just try to create and share the best work we possibly can.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced running Death to the Stock Photo?

It’s difficult to balance growing the actual business but also keeping it fun and fresh and pursuing the more oddball ideas we might have for things. Like today I might have this really great idea for a quirky campaign we could run involving polaroid cameras and Instagram, but realize that there’s so much behind the scenes work to be done on our website, in our finances, legal work, data, customer development. I think all creatives face this, but if you want to make a huge impact and have the ability to create more quirky side-projects, you have to nail the business side too.

Can you describe the importance of storytelling as it relates to photography?

So important.  To paraphrase Gary V, “Content isn’t king, CONTEXT is.” When you understand the context or story behind something, you feel so much more attached to it. We try to infuse stories and contexts with everything we do. Every pack has a story or theme, and they relate to what we’re thinking about that month. You have to set the right context for your viewers otherwise a photo becomes a commodity. It’s the “who” and the “why” behind each photo that makes them special.

Death to the Stock Photo: Swings

How do you derive inspiration for the themes of your photo packs?

It’s a pretty fluid process, but also one that’s very natural. Some of it is based on feedback we’ve received, but a lot is also themed around something we’re working through ourselves that month. It could even be that we’re feeling restless here in Columbus and want to just get out and travel, so we’ll make an adventure theme. Or maybe we’re more reserved and feeling like a quiet day alone is what we need, and focus a theme around the importance of spending time by yourself to recharge. Last, if there’s a space that just absolutely rocks, we can’t not shoot in it. [Benson: Just so you know, they just shot some photos for their upcoming pack in our office, Jussssss’ sayin’…]

What’s it like operating a creative business in Columbus?

To start, there’s two things that I want in my career. I want everything I do to create more opportunities, and more access for myself. Columbus is great because it has amazing access: to people, talent, creatives, or brands. You can be a big fish in a small pond here, and everyone is willing to meet with you. Columbus gives me opportunities and access which is what’s so great about it. I also love the people, and think they’re very genuine and kind.

What books/blogs are must reads for creative entrepreneurs in your opinion?

As far as blogs go, Seth Godin’s blog has been gospel for me for the last few years.  For books, I recommend you read something that’s outside your field. I’ve been reading a lot of psychology books and some fiction. “Choose Yourself” by James Altucher is one of my favorite books I’ve read in the last year.

Well there you have it. To close, I highly recommend you to go the Death to the Stock Photo website, punch in your email address, and let some awesome free photography land in your electronic mailbox. The photography is amazing, and to say the least, inspiring. Check out their Instagram feed to see what I mean.

Death to the Stock Photo


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