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Stocking up

Chie Tanaka

When businesses go online, they need to come up with plenty of content. This includes photos. Japan's stock photography industry, which supplies pre-made images, is quickly expanding to meet that need.

Photographer Masato Takeuchi is working on a new assignment: shooting pictures of models dressed as construction workers. Businesses that need stock images are the expected buyers of Takeuchi's photos.

He expects a surge of demand from construction companies, which post advertisements to recruit workers ahead of the hot summer months.

"It is important to consider what kind of photos potential buyers want for their ads," Takeuchi says.

His photos are selling well, bringing in about 6,000 dollars of revenue a month. Last year, he quit his job at a financial institution.

One company that buys Takeuchi's photos is Freee, an accounting software company, which uses them on its website. The company puts a lot of effort on its online presence, which offers updated articles. The stock images are chosen to fit the theme of each article.

"Photos help increase clicks and greatly affect the way information is spread," says Freee CEO Daisuke Sasaki.

Stock photography agencies act as intermediaries between photographers like Takeuchi and the end clients. Photographers ask the agencies to post their work on their websites. Customers download images for a fee, and the agencies pay the photographers based on the number of downloads.

This major stock photo company in Japan has more than 10 million images on its website. A single search, whether for nursing or a business meeting, yields plenty of choices. Fees start at about 4 dollars per photo. Last year, its customers downloaded 850,000 photos, twice the 2013 figure.

"The last decade has seen a double-digit increase in demand for photos and other visual images, as their online use has become so widespread," Pixta CEO Daisuke Komata says.

One of the world's leading stock photo agencies organized a workshop last month in Tokyo. More than 100 photographers from Japan and other countries signed up.

The firm provides information on the kinds of photos in high demand. One of the more popular search terms on the company's website is "Japanese seniors." Company officials want to encourage photographers to contribute more images of Japan, another theme seeing growing demand in other countries.

Rebecca Swift, director of Creative Planning at Getty Images says, "The world is becoming more interested in health and sustainable living and design, and Japan reflects all of those different aspects."

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