Quietly but implacably, powerful transnational corporations are gaining power over our visual world. A 'global, visual content industry' increasingly controls images supplied to advertisers, marketers and designers, yet so far the process has, paradoxically, evaded the public eye. This book is the first to expose the interior workings of the visual content industry, which produces approximately 70% of the images that define consumer cultures. The corporate acquisition of major photographic and film archives, as well as the digital rights to much of the world’s fine art, is having a profound effect on what we see. From stock photography to new technologies, this book powerfully engages with the historical and cultural issues relating to visual culture and new media. How has stock photography, the system of ‘renting out’ ready-made images, transformed the role of marketing and advertising? What impact are digital technologies having on the practices of industry professionals? How have software programs such as Photoshop enabled professionals to play ‘God’ with photographs and how does this influence our belief in the integrity of images?Combining original research on stock photography with a new theoretical take on the circulation of images in contemporary culture, The Image Factory provides a comprehensive and in-depth exploration of industrialized commercial photography, its uses and abuses.