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The Non-Photographer’s Guide to Working with Stock Photography

Creative Services

Nov 08, 2018

Stock PhotographyClear, distinctive photographs are hugely important for developing your brand’s visual language. Stock photos create a level playing field for integrated marketers, allowing businesses of every size to obtain beautiful images without the costs of original photography. Here’s what you need to know before you go on a shopping spree at Getty Images.

Royalty-Free vs. Rights-Managed Images

Go to any stock photo site, and you’ll have the option to search through photos that are either:

  • Royalty-free images. You pay a flat fee for an image and can use it as many times as you want, wherever you want, for as long as you want. If you want to use it on social, online, or enhance it with motion effects to put it in an interactive brochure, knock yourself out! Unfortunately, anyone else can purchase that same image – so your “customer service guy” could turn up to illustrate a magazine article about violent criminals or in other unsavory places.

  • Rights-managed images. These images cost considerably more, with limitations on where, when, what kind of media, and how long you can use them. You pay more for greater exclusivity: you can pay for category or complete exclusivity, so no one else can use the photo for a specified period of time. Famous photographers often make their images available to license on a rights-managed basis, so if you’re looking for something prestigious, this may be a good option.

The Right Way to Get Free Images

If you “grab” a photo from the Internet or screengrab something from a photographer or stock house, it’s actually stealing, even if it’s just for internal communications. Not to mention, the image won’t be at high enough resolution for you to use in most applications.

If you need photography for free, look into creative commons (CC) images, the public domain of photography. Getty has a CC site with 35 million images (and extensive guidelines for how to use them). You can also try Flickr: an artist or photographer may grant you usage in exchange for credit or acknowledgement.

You Don’t Have to Do It Yourself

All the big stock houses have websites that let you get super-specific with your search, but they also have actual human representatives who can help marketers. For example, if you find a style or a photographer you like, a rep can help you assemble a complete image library. Better yet, get some good creative design help, so you’ll get guidance from someone who knows just what to look for…and how to use it.

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