How To Find Stock Photography

Businesses big and small use stock photography to add color, excitement and flair to advertising campaigns. Using stock photography is appealing because of its relatively low cost, quick turnaround, and easy accessibility.

The photos distributed by various stock photography outlets are created by photographers when they are off assignment. Some of their best work is produced then as their creative spirits are free to express themselves. With hundreds of thousands of stock photos already available, you are bound to find something that captures your vision.

In order for you to make an informed decision on where to purchase your photos, you should understand the different types of stock photography, the types of stock photography outlets, the importance of quality, and the pricing.

  1. Types of Stock Photography

    Royalty Free: Royalty free photos range in price from as low as $1 to as much as $300 depending on their quality. These are the most common form of stock photography on the market today. Royalty free means that once you have paid for the photo, you have the right to reuse it at will. However, it does not give you full rights over the photo to redistribute it in any way, shape or form. That would infringe on the photographer's intellectual property rights and is punishable by law. Sometimes there is a limitation in the number of print copies you may use a photo in. A subcategory that is relatively new to the industry is that of micro-stock photos. They are available in different qualities but are all sold at very low prices ranging from 20 cents to $10. Sites that sell micro-stock photos rely on selling large volumes of photos to make profits rather than selling smaller volumes at lower prices.

    Rights Managed (Licensed) Images: Rights managed (RM) photography is significantly greater in price than royalty-free photography. Pricing ranges from several hundred dollars to the thousands, all depending on what your contract stipulates. When you use RM photographs, you must pay per specific use and are limited to a maximum print run agreed upon by both parties. For example, you can create a brochure and copy it at or below the maximum number of copies your agreement stipulates.  The price is determined based on the geographic location of usage, size of print runs, and the length of time you own exclusive rights to it. Rights managed photography gives you the advantage of having sole rights to an image for a certain period of time. In so doing, your competitors or anyone else will not be able to use that image, thus making your advertising campaign unique.

  2. Stock Photography Outlets

    Agency Based: Stock photo agencies continue to live on although many have opted not to be left behind in the digital age and have adopted an Internet face. The main advantage of agency based archives is that their staff are trained to be very knowledgeable with their catalogs and thus have a great chance of finding what you desire. Its main disadvantage is the sparseness of their locations and the slower turnaround. Another option similar to agency based is to locate a local photographer. You can ask if he licenses his past shoots as stock photography and can cut a good deal.

    Web-Based/CD Based: The market of stock photography has undergone massive changes over recent years. While stock photography agencies were once the only powerhouses of the industry, Internet-based outlets have grown in popularity. All types of stock photography can be obtained online at will. CD-based stock photos are exclusively royalty-free and can cost anywhere from about 50 to several hundreds of dollars.  When all is said and done, the best values come from Internet-based stock houses.

  3. An Introduction to Photo Quality

    Photo quality is an important aspect of finding stock photography. In order for your advertisement media to be effective, it needs to have a professional appearance. Basically, quality can be determined by the number of pixels because the more pixels are packed in an area, the crisper it will look. You can also compare quality by noting the download size. As a general rule, the greater the download size, the greater the resolution (another word for quality). I advise that you try to go for the level of quality just below the highest or whatever you can afford. You will need to work with a graphic designer and/or printer closely to make sure the required resizing can be done without compromising quality. Remember:  The higher the quality, the better it will look.
  4. Stock Photography on a Shoestring Budget

    1. Try some of the free sites available by typing "free stock photography" into a search engine.
    2. Use micro-stock photos.
    3. Take the pictures yourself, using high quality film or a high quality digital camera.


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