Stock Photos: Where to go and what you should know

  • by Shala Graham
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Companies often use stock photos in some form or another for a project to save the cost of commissioned photography. Stock photos help get your message across, emphasize certain points or add some humor to a particular piece. But where you do you get these awesome photos and are you allowed to use just any photo for any piece of work you have designed? So to help you understand stock photos and their rights, here are a few things you should know.

There are many places you can obtain stock photos from. Some of the most popular places are: Getty Images, iStockphoto, Fotolia, and Shutterstock.

Both Getty Images and Shutterstock are high-dollar stock photography sites. At both of these site you can purchase photos but with rights-managed licenses or royalty-free licenses. Photos on these sites have starting prices of $100 and go up by the hundreds. However, the images here tend to be more high-end and visually conceptual. So if you are looking for that extra something in your work, you can most likely find them at Getty or Shutterstock. If you are looking for diversity images, Blend Images is worth a look in the high-dollar range.

Rights managed license

Rights managed license is when you are given permission to use the photo for a particular piece, whether it’s for a brochure, billboard, ad, etc. This typically includes restrictions on the length of time, the medium, the size, the format and the location of use, and how many times it’s used. The more flexible or beneficial the rights one purchases, the more expensive the license. These licenses can range anywhere from $500-$20,000+. Rights-managed photos are more strict on how you can use the photo and tend to protect the photographer better as far as compensation.

Royalty-Free license

A Royalty-Free license is where the buyer usually receives the right to use photo in any number of projects without paying additional royalty charges, but with some flexible restrictions.  Some of the restrictions could be giving the photographer credit on the piece or if it’s used more than X number of times you must purchase a rights-managed license. A common restriction in royalty-free licenses is the work should not be used in anything for resale or anything that is being trademarked or a trade name (i.e., no logos).

Extended license

If you decide to resale a photo, you must purchase an extended license. Stock photo places such as iStockphoto and Fotolia offer extended license options that cover things such as items for resale with a limited run, electronic items for resale with an unlimited run, unlimited users or unlimited reproduction/print run. Under their standard licences, these sites tend to let you use the photo in any marketing or collateral piece such as a brochure, newspaper, magazine, catalogue, etc under very generous terms, such as 500,000 reproductions. The great thing about places such as iStock and Fotolia is that the prices on stock photos are very reasonable, especially if you are on a budget. Photos can range from $1-15 or so dollars, depending on the resolution or size of the photo or the complexity of the vector graphic.

Until we can all afford to commission our photography, stock photos make a great addition to any design. Just be aware that since stocks photos are available to everybody, there is a possibility that the same photo you are using someone else is using too. And that’s where your designer comes in to make your piece pop and shine for that WOW! factor.

Disclaimer: Please refer to each stock photo website for their exact legal terms of use.