Publishing... Behind-the-scenes (Cover edition)
The controversy was an author used a stock photo on her cover that readers had seen on another book, so they think she stole the photo. It was a stock image and so it is available for sale to anyone who wants to buy it. The price on these photos is low compared to a photo shoot with models and a photographer for an exclusive picture. So... the photo wasn't stolen, at all, but this author was bashed and blacklisted because readers didn't understand the reality of stock photos.
The After Dark covers below were created by Sarah Hansen of Okay Creations with a layering of stock photos and image effects, and just plain skill: the shoes on the Angel cover were wedges and she made them stilettos...
Basically it is an issue of budget, cost difference, and whether it will really make a difference on book sales when an author chooses between the two. Stock photos can be maybe $50-100, and an exclusive photo is between $300-2000 dollars because there are fees with location, photographers, models, make-up artists, etc. The difference is the exclusivity.
I've done both, and honestly, if you have a talented cover artist who can layer photos, add effects, change hair colors, etc, then I really think you can come up with an original cover using stock photos.
Understand also, that even though you pay for the photo shoot, the photographer still owns the photographs. So, even though I paid for a shoot for one of my series, and was able to choose three photos, the rest remained property of the photographer, and I've seen photos from my shoot on at least two other covers. So... for me, I may purchase photos from photographers, but will probably never do an exclusive photo shoot again.
So, if you recognize a picture on more than one cover, please don't automatically assume that one of the authors stole the picture from the other.
Stock photo resources: DepositPhotos.com, Shutterstock.com, IstockPhoto.com, BigStock.com, Fotolia.com. You can purchase photos on a per photo price, or on a subscription basis.
Photographer resources: Sara Eirew, Scott Hoover, Eric David Battershell, FuriousFotog.