What Is Stock Photography? A Comprehensive Guide

Stock Photography
Stock Photography

Some people think that stock photography is boring. When they think of stock photos, they think of office workers sitting around a conference table pointing at a blank flip chart.

But that is far from the truth. Stock photography can help you market your business and produce creative content which will save you time and make your work even better.

So, what exactly is it and how do stock photos work? This guide covers everything you need to know about stock photography.

What Is Stock Photography?

Stock photographs are photos available for anyone to license for a specific purpose and are often royalty-free. Businesses or individuals can license stock photography. The photos are often available to download in a range of specs which you can do as soon as you buy.

The content of stock photography is limitless. If a photo can exist of a subject, it can be a stock photograph. But the most popular stock photos are of people, animals, landscapes, and food.

There are several benefits to using stock photographs. They are often more professional and can save you the costs of setting up the scene. The negatives are that anyone could use the same photograph and you might not be able to find the exact photograph you need.

Licensing Stock Photos

One of the most important things to understand about stock photos is licensing. Your intended purpose for the image will influence what type of license you need. There are two categories of use when it comes to licensing stock photos: editorial and commercial.

Editorial means you want to use the image in publications, books, and online personal websites. Commercial means marketing and advertising, branding, and any for-profit purpose.

You can often manipulate your licensed stock images in any way as long as it does not break your licensing agreement and is not offensive.

Some licenses expire after a specified amount of time. If you license a lot of stock photographs, it is a good idea to make a spreadsheet so you know when you need to renew each license.

Finding Free Stock Photos

Free stock images do not tend to be the best stock photos, but they are ideal for those with tight budgets. Here are some websites where you can find free stock photos:

  • Unsplash
  • Flickr
  • Pixabay
  • Pexels
  • Freerange Stock

They still might have certain licensing restrictions, but often only ask for a credit and not a payment. This might be because a photographer is starting out and is happy to receive exposure in exchange for a photograph. Or, photography might be a hobby for them and not a profession.

Look for free photos with a “creative commons” license and you will be able to use the images as you please (with a credit).

Stock Photography Websites

If you license a lot of stock photos, it might be better to sign up for a stock photography service so you can manage all your image licenses in one place.

Here are some great stock photography websites:

  • Shutterstock
  • iStockPhoto
  • Adobe Stock Images
  • Getty Images
  • Alamy
  • Stocksy
  • Top Foto

The license agreements for every stock photograph on each website will likely be the same.

Use Stock Photography in Your Next Project

Stock photography is an easy and cost-effective way to get the images you need for your business or personal projects. Once you know how to license stock images, you will have millions and billions of images with the click of your mouse.

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