Automakers Taking Their Own Spy Photos: Why is this Happening?!
One of the great traditions in the automotive media is that of the spy shot. Before a car is unveiled, it needs to go through rigorous shakedown testing. In many situations, that testing cannot be done within the confines of an automaker's proving grounds, thus is must adorn yards upon yards of camouflage and body cladding, and take to the open road. That is when the spy photographer strikes. From the frozen north to the heat of Death Valley, the likes of Brenda Priddy and others have made careers out of tracking down these prototypes, much to the ire of the automakers. All in the name of getting the car fan the early sneak peak of a car that they so deeply desire. Perhaps it is that ire that has driven this latest fad from automakers; taking spy photos of their own vehicles. Allow the stupidity and redundancy of that to sink in a moment. So what gives? The answer is simple: It's all about controlling the message. See automakers hate it when the media doesn't follow their directive in covering a car. That is why journalists get flown out to remote locations, wined, and dined when testing something as simple as a Ford Fusion- The auto scribe might not even realize it, but they subconsciously feel bad for lambasting a car from the people that just fed them lobster and put them up in a five star hotel. It's also why Ferrari will black-list you for life if you try to write a review based on a Ferrari that you procured from a dealership– they want you testing the car that they tuned right before the test drive event.
So how does that play into spy photos? Well the spy photography business is a tough one. You have to basically hide in the desert or near one of the automakers' headquarters in the hopes that you can spot one of their prototypes out testing. That is when you get your shot that you can sell to various automotive outlets. Like Peter Parker getting the only shots of Spider Man in town, these photogs pay top dollar for their work- and deservedly so!
So what if the automaker offers shots just like it for free?! Well, the more upstanding outlets will continue to employ the intrepid photographers, while the one's that can't afford it will go with the freebees. As a result, the spy photographers will take a hit in the wallet, and some may have to close up shop.
The end result? The automaker has more control over its message, and pushing their own agenda. Up close, its just a strange version of advertising, but in a big picture sense, it's a way of shutting down the only people that manage to get photos of the automakers undergarments. So, support your friendly neighborhood spy photographer, and turn down those silly in-house spy shots!