Ever since the introduction of stock photography websites, a great deal and volume of stock photography has started flowing onto the Internet. With the side-by-side rise of advertising agencies, and need to advertise with the best possible (and often cheapest) campaign in an attempt to attract the most users, agencies have started making use of stock photos sourced online to speed up their process, and keep costs down.
The roots of Stock Photography date back as far as till the 1920s when the newspapers and magazines reproduced photographs in their media, instead of mere line drawings that depicted the scene in the oddest manner. However, it was not until the 1990’s when stock photography websites took the spotlight online, which included large agency collections such as:
Or more recently with direct photography stock photo sites such as:
With the influx of these websites, there was a need to control how these photographs were organized and maintained. Also, it was great for the photographers, who spend many hours to take these photos to get a reward for their hard work. Thus, stock photos started being organized according to their level of quality, and individual licensing agreements (Read more: Stock Photography License)
Stock Photography Licenses:
The images are classified accordingly to their respective license set to the stock photo by the user who uploads them. There are many types of licenses however; the main ones can be classified below:
- 1. Royalty Free (RF):
Once the image is bought it can be used more than once, at any location without having to buy the royalties of using it again. For Royalty-Free images there is no specific user that owns exclusive rights to it, and so the image can be sold further on (if commercial uses are allowed, only then). There can be limits to Royalty-Free images such as the limit to the amount of times the image can be reproduced after it is brought (For example: If I buy a football sports image, there may be a limit as to how many times I can reproduce the image in my local magazine, etc.)
However, sites like GettyImages have RF images with almost an unlimited use set to them, meaning you only need to pay once for the image (price varies according to resolution of image) and then can reproduce the image whenever you want
- 2. Rights-Managed (RM):
Rights-Managed images are the ones usually used by multinational companies and press related companies, such as: Business Insider, BBC, etc. The price of the image is calculated at the end considering all the factors that play a role in it, such as: approximate amount of prints to be reproduced, medium of usage (newspaper, billboards, etc.), duration of use, exclusivity (if the image is chosen under Exclusive rights, no other person or organization can buy the image, until the license expires or so). RM images usually have a “Print-Run” (amount of prints allowed to be reproduced) of up to 1-million images at times.
What Makes a Good Stock Photograph? :
What makes up a good stock photograph you ask? Well, there are a few factors that actually make up a good stock photograph. What makes up a good stock photographer is totally a different topic altogether (but we’ll discuss it a bit at the end of this heading).
Let us consider a few factors that could contribute to a photograph being deemed as a ‘stock image’.
Quality is the most important factor that contributes the most to a photograph being either classified or not being classified as a stock image. Let us take the example of two images and see how quality affects the image as a stock photograph:
(Image 1: Not a stock)
(Image 2: A stock)
Just by looking at both the images, a person can figure out that the 2nd photograph is a lot sharper, has a better contrast and looks like an image that someone could use in a project or so. Apart from the things that are visual I would like to tell you that both the images also have a different resolution. The resolution of the images is as follows:
- Image 1 has a resolution of 1024 x 768
- Image 2 has a resolution of 2400 x 1748
As you can see, both the images have a remarkable difference in their resolution and quality. Having a higher resolution doesn’t always mean that the photograph would be of good quality, and that it could be marked as a stock image.
The Image 2 puts a more direct focus on the object and presents a much cleaner background to it, allowing the users to easily manipulate the image in sort of manner they wish to. The Image 1 is a more ‘household snapshot’ image that is taken randomly with no thought to quality, final output, etc.
Now, coming along let us reason as to why “Resolution” plays a big role in stock photograph and how it helps the final output from both the users perspective and from the consumers perspective.
As I mentioned before, stock photographs have started being used in many mediums, ranging from newspapers, televisions, magazines, to even large-scale uses like billboards, etc. These advertising mediums require images that are worthy of resolution and quality likewise.
(Original Resolution: 100% zoomed) and (Enlarged Version: 100% zoomed)
Stretching, skewing, and enlarging DOES NOT work here. Even a little pixel can be noticed on a large scale use. This is exactly why stock photographs that can be marked as “premium” or “high quality” images are of high resolution and of top notch quality.
Let us see what advantages it has from the user’s perfective:
- High resolution images usually get classified as “premium” images so they come in exposure from major advertising firms. If any of them choses it, it would definitely mean a lot of money
- Having a high resolution allows the user to break down the image into different resolutions and set a different price for each – allowing the user to target different market segments according to resolution they require
And for the people who use these images, i.e. advertising agencies, organizations, magazines, newspapers, etc. (consumers):
- Large Resolutions allow the organizations to reproduce the image in any format the want. Whether it is a billboard advertisement, magazine cover, newspaper article, anything can be easily produced
- Greater control over images – can be manipulated in more ways than a small image can be
Now to discuss the last factor, that is the pricing of the stock photograph, an equally vital phase in this scenario which depicts the ending sales and also targets a specific target market with a specific price.
Pricing, is one of the factors that plays a role during the submission of stock photography, but its importance is only seen once the image is submitted. Pricing is something that not only depicts the amount of money the user will earn, but in turn also depicts the quality of the image and the target market it is aimed at.
A high resolution, high quality image will definitely cost more than a small resolution, or low quality image. Taking an example, the below image has different resolutions, and you can see a difference in their pricing as well:
(An image being used for Editorials; magazines, newspapers, etc)
(An image being used for Billboard advertising – notice the sudden difference in pricing)
As you can see, the pricing also determines the target market it is aiming at. While the 39$ can be afforded by mostly anyone: ranging from a blogger, local newspaper company, national magazine, etc.
The image that can be used for billboard advertisement cannot be used by everyone and can only be used by multinational companies, advertising agencies and organizations alike. Also, it is already known that the billboard advertising image will have a gigantic resolution and quality that will fit and suit only a billboard!
Now, the factors that influence a good stock photographer is something totally different. For those of you who do not know, please check out Yuri Arcurs who is one of the world’s best stock photographer – and he surprisingly makes thousands of dollars just by selling stock images (microstock).
If you visit his page, you will notice he has bought the top-notch of almost everything, from a good studio to stunning light equipment, studio equipment and last but not the least, an amazing camera for himself. He does this to ensure that he stays at the top and so that he may continue to keep on selling microstock images at an alarming rate to many of the world’s greatest firms keeping him financially strong.
As you can see, a good stock photographer is influenced by many ‘physical’ factors apart from the factors that already influence a good stock photograph (stated above).
The Best of the Stock Websites:
Here are a few sites that sell / buy / collect / showcase stock photographs. Some of them do microstock pricing while others have higher traditional pricing.
The list could be fairly extensive, so I’ll just show you guys some 10-15 of the best out there, which are mostly used. If you can’t find something on them, try “google” it then and see the other stock websites