Wednesday, September 14, 2016

5 Dos and Don’ts for Buying Stock Photographs

By Heather Truitt


Over the last 15 years or so, along with the growth of the internet, stock photography has become wildly popular. The availability of a wide range of images, from landscapes to cityscapes and more, offers a more cost-effective alternative to doing a custom photo shoot to produce content to use on your website or in marketing pieces.

Whether you are using the purchased images for a blog, a website, social media platforms, or promotional materials, below are some tips to keep in mind when purchasing stock images.
  1. If you are purchasing images on a regular basis, DO buy a subscription. This will ensure that you are getting the most for your money.
  2. DO research usage licenses, because the differences are important. Do you know the difference between royalty free images and rights managed images?
    • Royalty free means that the purchaser is free to use the image for whatever purpose they like, with a few exceptions, and for an unlimited amount of usage. So, let’s say I wanted to use one image for an advertisement in both print and digital forms. I would need to buy a royalty free image only one time and would be able to use it repeatedly without any extra cost.
    • Rights Managed images requires users to specify exactly what the image will be used for, and additional uses would carry additional cost. Let’s say I found a great image that I wanted to use for an advertisement. I would have to select the type of publication in which the advertisement will be placed (ex. Magazine, newspaper, event program etc.) and specify the circulation of the magazine, the start date, and how long I would like to use the image. As you can imagine, this type of usage arrangement can drive the price of your stock photo from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars.
  3. Remember your audience. If you are trying to reach a diverse audience, DON’T purchase images that do not reflect diversity.
  4. DO examine images with a critical eye. Let’s say I wanted to purchase an image for a personal injury law firm blog post that talked about being injured in a car accident. When I’m looking for a suitable image, I want to be aware of all of the parts of the image. Sometimes, you will find a great photo, but then realize that, say, all the police officers are dressed in European uniforms, or the ambulance does not have the look that your users would expect.
  5. Some stock photography websites allow you to search by image popularity. DON’T pick the most popular images, unless they best fit your specific image criteria. The chances of another competitor using that image or a similar one is likely, especially if you are using popular stock photo websites. You want to make sure you are differentiating yourself from competitors through the use of different images, whenever possible.
These tips should help you make better choices when purchasing stock photography for your company or yourself. One of the most important tips to reinforce is making sure you are looking at the correct license for your use. Few things are worse than finding that PERFECT stock photo to fit your needs, only to discover that it is rights managed and will cost a few thousand dollars to use it every time you need it.

Below is a list of some of the most popular stock photography websites; I highly recommend iStockphoto.com and Getty Images.

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