Using Stock Photographs and Illustrations
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Using Stock Photographs and Illustrations

What are stock photographs?

Example of a stock photographA stock photograph is simply a picture of a subject which you want to use in a printed publication, or on a website. The photo shown here is just one example of a fairly typical stock photograph.

Traditionally, stock photographs were supplied in catalogues by specialist studios. Each catalogue would cover a particular subject area, such as landscapes, business metaphors or animals. If you wanted to use a particular illustration in a project, you paid the studio a fee for copyright permission.

Like everything, the Internet revolutionised the way in which stock photographs were supplied and bought. Nowadays, there are dozens of websites where amateur and professional photographers alike can submit their photographs, drawings and other illustrations — even animations and movies — for anyone to view and buy usage rights.

How much does it cost to use stock photos?

Since there is such a huge volume of material to choose from, and lots of websites competing for business, the price of stock photography has dropped astonishingly.

You can now buy the rights to use a stock photo for as little as 50p, but for print you will generally need to use a larger size which costs more. Even so, the cost should be no more than £2-£3.

When I have paid for a photo, does it become my property?

No; you are only paying for a licence to use the photo. The situation is similar to buying a piece of software for your computer — what you are paying for (in addition to the CD and manual of course) is permission to use the software on your computer, known as a licence.

If you want to use the same photo for more than one project, the terms of the licence usually specify that you must pay for the photo again. Considering how inexpensive stock photography has become, this is generally not an issue.

What websites can I visit for stock photos?

Our recommended site is BigStockPhoto, since we buy usage credits in large volumes which means we can incorporate their images into printed work for very low fees. We make no additional charge for downloading the image and making the necessary modifications to prepare it for printing.

Some other stock photography sites you might want to look at include:

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