Are you looking for images to make your brochure or website homepage stand out from the competition? Stock imagery can make or break your design. It’s good to use custom photography/artwork if possible, but it takes weeks (or even months) to coordinate an original photo shoot – and it costs a lot more. With stock photos, everything’s done and ready to go. You just need to spend a little time to find the right ones to use, most good stock sources have search tools to let help you narrow the search, but you need to allocate some time to building a good library of images.
There are a ton of royalty-free media services to choose from with all types of media (photos, illustrations, vector art, audio, video) and the usage licenses, the sheer number of stock image/media companies can be daunting. I would try to look for a small handful that fit your needs best and bookmark them, you’ll need to use them again and it better if you don’t have to spend time looking for sources, you can focus on finding the right images.
Avoid cliche images – like handshakes and anything else that clearly says “bad stock”, the goal is to look like you paid to have the photo taken. You also need to be aware of the resolutions you select when purchasing, the lower res images bought for website are usually cheaper, but if you decide later you want to use for print it will be blurry or pixelate – and not look good for your brand identity.
Stock images are available in two main types, royalty-free and rights-managed. Royalty-free images, allow you nearly unlimited use. You can use the image in virtually any application, for as long as you like, in as many different projects as you like, as long as you comply with the terms of the license agreement. The image is available to use from the time you purchase a license, no additional royalty payments are owed.
Rights-managed images, your right to use the image is restricted, with limitations placed on things such as duration of use, geographic region, industry, etc., as established by your license agreement.
What are the Best Stock Photo Sites?
Here are a couple of my favorite choices and some highlights of the products & services offered by each. Hopefully this will help you find a stock photo/media company that meets your needs.
Shutterstock search millions of royalty-free stock photos, illustrations, and vectors. Get inspired by ten thousand new, high-resolution images added daily. – credits or subscription available. Shutterstock has their own editor that is a simple, fast, and free way to edit photos, now in beta.Try out the free image editor at Shutterstock
BigStock is an affordable stock image service that specializes in images and illustrations. Their straightforward, inexpensive pricing model paired with a wide range of images to meet most digital marketing needs makes it our pick for the best stock photo site for online use. This is the company I use most often. Pricing is affordable and easy to understand – credits or subscription available.
iStock is run by the highly reputable Getty Images. Graphic designers and small advertising agencies find iStock to be a great resource due to their low prices, affordable subscription plan, image variety and versatility. With millions of pieces for sale, iStock is one of the better choices for those in need of lots of online, royalty-free, low resolution images for websites or e-newsletters. The iStock website can be a bit challenging to users who prefer to browse without a keyword in mind, as it is difficult to just browse without first typing in a keyword. Overall the search function via keywords is easy and intuitive for the reader. This is a good service that offers great images at a good price.
There’s tons of resources for using stock images in your marketing materials, it’s a good idea to understand how it all works and how to find the best images to use in all your marketing materials, I recommend Lynda.com as a great place to start, they have hours of videos on stock photos and digital imagery, explaining how licenses work, and teaches how to get them to work for your brand expression.