Stock photography is one of the most fundamental pillars of the publishing, marketing and advertising industries as it is extensively used in print and digital media, advertisements, brochures, newspapers, magazines, graphic design, websites, social-media as well as other platforms.
When customers need high-quality photos for their business or creative purposes, especially when they need to illustrate an idea or visually convey a message and make it easily understood, they have two main options to consider.
The first, to use the services of a freelance photographer that will shoot custom photos exclusively for the given project.
Assignment photography, where pictures are made to the client’s exact specifications is obviously a very expensive matter.
The second option which is far cheaper and more cost-effective, is to purchase ready-to-use, existing stock photos that are available for licensing, from a commercial library.
Such giant online picture databases, are managed by professional agencies that specialize in maintaining searchable digital inventories.
Their online image collections cover almost any topic, theme and style – from people, everyday objects, landmarks, scenery and travel destinations to animals, business, food, various situations, conceptual photography and much more.
A large number of people (including many hobbyists and amateur photographers) are equipped with sophisticated smartphones or quality digital cameras that are able to produce professional images.
As a direct result, many of them are trying to sell photos on stock photo websites (especially through online microstock agencies) in an effort to earn extra income.
Since there is no lack of content to sell, this phenomenon has led to a massive oversupply of images in the market and to sharp price drops, which benefit buyers from all sectors.
Buying a stock photo gives the client the legal right to use it in accordance with to the terms and conditions that are specified in the license.
There are three main license formats that are common in the media industry and each of them works entirely differently:
- Public Domain: Photos whose copyright has expired, never had copyright protection to begin with or whose owner has contributed the work into the public domain.
They are free to use by anyone for any given purpose without restriction and without purchasing a license.
- Royalty-Free: The cheapest and most popular license type in the market.
The RF model offers a one-time, upfront flat rate license fee at no further cost.
This model entitles the buyer to use the image multiple times with no time limit (meaning forever), in a very wide range of permitted uses.
RF images are non-exclusive, offer considerable flexibility and may come with some usage restrictions.
- Rights Managed: The traditional format used by image banks.
Copyright license is customized, fully tailored to the client’s unique usage needs and involves the most restrictions.
The price for the image will depend on multiple factors, including usage profile, media type, campaign time length, print run, geographic location, image size and resolution, industry type and exclusivity preferences.
- Money Saving: Instead of hiring a freelance photographer expensively, customers have the ability to search a very large database with millions of quality images and quickly find the ones that suit their creative project’s needs – affordably.
- Purchase Speed: Stock image credits or subscriptions can be ordered online within very few minutes.
- Immediate Delivery: Images can be selected, purchased and downloaded straight to the client’s computer instantly.
No need to go through a lengthy, time consuming commissioned photoshoot.
- Quality: Stock photography sites offer professionally taken pictures.
- Peace of Mind: Buyers know exactly what they’ll get, in terms of the quality of the finished product.
- Variety: The major agencies run gigantic catalogs with millions of pictures in any possible niche.
- It’s Legal: Using photos legally and complying with the law help avoiding unnecessary legal pitfalls.
- Advertising Companies
- Marketing Agencies
- Newspapers, Magazines & Publications
- Publishing Houses
- Small Businesses
- Major Corporations and Brands
- Content Providers
- Website Builders
- Graphic Designers
What Do Stock Photo Sites Offer?
The digital age has changed the way the stock photography industry is structured.
Microstock photography sites, which specialize in selling low-priced images in great volume, overshadow the more traditional premium macrostock agencies that sell high-priced exclusive photos and used to dominate the market in the past.
Even though royalty-free photos remain the best-selling product of stock houses, they offer other types of media as well, which include vector images, illustrations, icons, graphics, music tracks, audio files and video clips.
Websites usually enable their members to buy images in two pricing models: single-order image credit packages and monthly or yearly subscriptions plans.
Paying for Stock Photos with PayPal
Even though PayPal is one of the most popular payment methods on the internet, some stock photography services have not adopted it yet.
However, a fair number of players in this market do accept PayPal and hopefully, their number will increase with time.
Before Choosing: Features to Consider
In order to make sure that you receive optimal benefit from using this type of service, it is crucial to conduct proper research and verify that certain features that you need are actually being offered by the providers that you consider.
Doing so will help you decide which agency is the best fit for your individual needs.
Such features may include:
- Payment via PayPal
- On Demand / Pay As You Go Plans
- Monthly Packs
- Daily Subscription
- Team / Multi-User Account
- Hi-Res Images
- Full HD and 4K Video
- Watermarked Image Test Previews
- Single Image Orders
- Free Photo Promotions
- Enterprise Solutions
- Mobile App