Stock images are a cost-effective method to obtain professional visuals. Hiring a photographer can be a great way of getting a series of images that you need or using an illustrator / graphic designer can give you control over the style you want produced but buying single stock images might be a cheaper solution.
Today there are many stock imagery companies (see list below) but for every stock library there is probably another 20-30 individual sites that specialise in food, machinery, people, buildings, etc.
Stock images are created by professional photographers, illustrators and graphic designers and can be as varied and diverse to fit most situations.
When buying images you need to be aware that the creator/image library will own the rights to the image, are used only under a license. Always check the terms and conditions of individual sites.
Here is a very quick guide on how to use stock images for websites and print.
Stock photos can come in various sizes if you are using images for your website it is fine to buy smaller images at 72dpi but for print you need to make sure you buy 300dpi. Size matters too, the image should be the same as or larger than the final size you need. Always remember you can make an image smaller but you can not make it bigger.
Example of sizes
Small – 500 x 328 – 17.6 cm x 11.6 cm (72dpi)
Medium – 1000 x 655 – 8.5 cm x 5.5 cm (300dpi)
Large – 3205 x 2100 – 27.1 cm x 17.8 cm (300dpi)
Super – 6410 x 4200 – 54.3 cm x 35.6 cm (300dpi)
Vector vs Illustration
A vector is a scaleable image that can be scaled to any size without losing resolution. These tend to be png, pdf and eps files. Pdf and eps files can be edited as they are made up of different elements. You can change colour of different sections if required or use different elements rather than the whole.
When you purchase a stock image there are usually some restrictions, although most images have a lifetime license some are limited to 5 years after which you would need to renew. Other restrictions may be images limited to web use and not print. Stock images can be widely used for non-editorial purposes, for example commercial use. But editorial images can only be used for none commercial purposes like, news blogs, charities, if you are selling anything either product or service you must use non-editorial images.
When it comes to print, you will need to check with individual licensing but on the whole if you are doing small print runs there is a single charge, it can become more complicated when doing large print runs.
This tends to be an image that you can download and use on a personal level, i.e. homework, personal documents, invites, newsletters and most allow free usage for charities etc, the main area of classification is that they are not used for commercial purposes or the images are not used within sold publications.
General Stock Image Companies
This is by no means an exhaustive list but here are a few: