Stock photography used to be a more time and cost intensive process due to the terms of photography use. Image prices as far back as 2000 were still around $100 each for high resolution quality. Also some photographers charged additional royalties if your usage was used in ads, signage and other communication pieces. Therefore you wanted to be certain about your stock photography purchases as they were a big budget item.

Part of the reason for the high cost was that it was a measure of how much original photography would be if you hired a photographer and rented studio for the day. Add more if you needed models, talent, props or any special items. The benefit of this approach is that you will get more control over the images and usage rights belong to you.

Now with the explosion of digital photography, royalty-free photo sites have popped up with much lower costs of $1-$20 per image. The images are of excellent quality and tagged with keywords, browse thumbnails and some have the ability to save images to a digital light box so you can save for further review.

Also our need as marketing professionals has changed in that we no longer always need high resolution images for printed materials. Many times our images are for web sites, emails, online ads and other digital content that is created and designed in a much shorter timeframe. The ability to quickly purchase images that work for your communication and use them immediately has become the norm.

The only drawback has been a proliferation of the same images used in marketing campaigns. I have seen several images I have purchased and used in my marketing communications appear in other companies’ materials. One benefit of the usage fees and royalties is that you could be denied an image if another company in your market had already purchased rights.

What are your thoughts on the changes in stock photography? Do you like the lower fees but want more unique usage rights?

Brian McDonald

Brian McDonald started Square Jaw Media to document strategies and techniques he had used over his experience working in marketing and communications since 1990. During this time Brian wrote about many of the exciting Raleigh social media events where great knowledge was being shared and tries to share some of the tips and tricks. . Read Brian's full bio.