stock photography

Do’s and Don’ts of Using Stock Photography

By Princess Jones

We live in a visual world. From your business blog to your product packaging to your social media marketing, a compelling image can get draw eyeballs from your potential customers. If you have the budget to hire a professional photographer or design to create your images, do it.

But if you’re working with a case of the “small-budgets,” consider buying stock photography instead. Just know your stuff before you make your purchases.

DO Remember You Aren’t Paying for Exclusivity

The way stock photography companies make their money is by selling nonexclusive rights to many different buyers. In short, if you want something no one else will ever use, stock photography isn’t for you.

This isn’t a problem if you’re looking for photos for your brochure or website because it doesn’t really matter if the photo shows up somewhere else. But if you’re looking for something to incorporate into a book cover, you need to consider how popular that image is. Most stock photography companies make it easy to see how popular an image is by showing the number of times it’s been downloaded from their site. You can also do a reverse Google image on the photo to see what comes up.

DON’T Be Afraid to Shop Around

You can’t throw a rock on the Internet without hitting a stock photography site. But the competition is good for the consumer. Stock photography sellers rely on creators to provide the content they sell in exchange for a cut of the price. Those creators often sell rights to multiple sites, which in turn sell the photos for various prices. By shopping around, you may find a better deal for the same photo on a different site.

The options are nearly endless. You have the big guys like iStock and Shutterstock. You have the newcomers like Death to Stock Photo and Pexels. And you can also go with a (usually) free Creative Commons License from sites like Flickr.

DO Read the Fine Print

When you buy a stock photo, you agree to use it by the terms of the seller. Those terms can vary greatly between companies. One example is “editorial use only,” which prohibits the use of the photo in marketing or sales creatives. Some providers may require attribution; although that’s much less common with stock photography commons. You’ll see it more if you’re using something like the Creative Commons License. It all depends on the fine print and you won’t know what’s in it until you read it.

DON’T Forget to Choose the Right License

Most stock photography companies offer a standard and an extended license for their photos. With an extended license, you may be allowed more uses of the image. Many standard licenses also limited whether you can use the image on a product. You’ll pay a little more for the extended license but that’s to be expected if you need the extension of rights that goes along with it. Just be sure to compare the differences before you buy so that you’re sure to buy the right license for your purpose.

DO Consider a Subscription

Do you find yourself using stock photography a lot? The costs can add up. One way to cut down on your stock photo budget is to buy a subscription. Most companies offer a discount on subscription credits. You’ll commit to buying a certain amount of credits each month in exchange for a better price on those credits. Try to get a subscription that rolls over the credits if you don’t use them each month. That way, you can save them up and use them as you like.

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Princess Jones
Princess Jones is the evil genius behind P.S. Jones Copy & Design, where she helps food and drink businesses speak the language of their audiences. For more talk about copywriting, design, and the tools to pull them off, follow her on Twitter @imprincessjones.

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