Everything You Need To Know About Stock Photography

Martin Tony
Created by Martin Tony
On Apr 22, 2019
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Photography is the simplest and most elegant way to send a message and create a reaction. Marketing materials that include excellent photography and minimal copy are more compelling and engaging.
Marketers have choices when it comes to photography, the best being to hire a professional photographer for a custom photo session. The benefit is obvious: the pictures will be unique and can be used without any restrictions. But in many cases, due to budget or time constrains, hiring a photographer is not an option. That's when stock free image comes in very handy. The good news is that today, with the explosion in the number of websites offering stock photography, the choices in terms of quantity, creativity and cost are basically unlimited.
Stock photography refers to collections of photographs, illustrations, vector, video, audio and flash files organized in indexed libraries that are searchable and available for commercial and personal use.
In order to use an image for your brochures or websites you have to obtain the rights to use it. The most common agreements fall into three categories:
Free images - are available for commercial and personal use at no cost to the user. These photographs are a viable alternative for small projects and blogs, however the selection and creative value is often limited.
Royalty-free (RF) images - are the most popular option and gives user the rights to use the image on an unlimited number of projects as often as needed. There are no additional fees to be paid after the initial purchase. Images are offered in different sizes and resolutions, and priced accordingly. The main advantages of royalty-free images are affordability, the multitude of options, and simplicity of use, as there are no legal implications after the purchase.
Rights-managed (RM) images - means that pictures in this category are priced based on where, how and when they will be used. The advantages of rights-managed images is that they are more creative, better quality photos, often available with exclusive rights.That being said these images are more expensive than royalty-free ones.
The best option depends on your project requirements. Before making the purchase ask yourself a few questions that will help narrow the search: is the Marketing piece intended for an internal or external audience? What is the desired level of exclusivity? What is the available budget?
Rights-managed images offer the most exclusivity, quality and creativity. However all these come at a cost. Free images on the other hand are obviously very "budget-friendly" but usually lack creativity. I personally find royalty-free images to be the best compromise between quality, exclusivity and cost.
The image cost is based on a few things, the most common being image size and resolution. A basic understanding of these concepts helps you avoid getting an image that is not suitable for your project. Below is a non-technical explanation of what these terms mean (I am not a Graphic Designer) and the correlation between them.
Resolution (measured in dots per inch or "dpi") gives you the quality of an image. The higher the resolution, the crisper the image, the more flexibility in re-sizing it without losing quality. The right resolution depends on the medium in which it will be used: for the web a resolution of 72 dpi will be sufficient, since the goal is to have the pages load fast. If you are printing the image in a large format then you will probably need a resolution of between 150 and 300 dpi, and even higher.