A look at the world of stock photography
March 11, 2016

The Wonderful World of Stock Photography

Stock photography refers to images and pictures that are made available for commercial use, imagery that is not custom made to client specifications but produced for any use. Stock photography is one of the fastest growing fields in photography due to its ubiquitous use and application in print, publishing and multi-media industries.

Imagery is a powerful tool in marketing and branding, a picture is worth a thousands words so it’s important to choose the right images to represent your company.

With millions of images available on sites like shutterstock and gettyimages and the low cost of attainment, using stock imagery is a popular option. Before you jump right into the vast and often strange world of stock photography it’s important to weigh up the positives and negatives to see if it’s the right choice for you.



Stock photography is great for the budget conscious. It is affordable and you can buy images individually or in packages. Allowing you to save considerably on the cost of hiring a photographer, models, equipment, props and editing. Stock imagery is also often royalty-free, so you only pay once and can use the image again and again.


If you need images quickly, stock is your best choice. They are instantly available to download and the only time invested is in finding the image and any retouching it might need.


There are millions of stock images online, contributed by photographers and designers all over the world. With abstract, concept and object imagery also available the chances are you will find what you’re looking for.


Most stock websites have strict requirements on the quality of images supplied, accounting for color, lighting, resolution, noise and more.


Stock images are available to you and everyone else so there is a chance your competitors’ could feature the same image. This is a risk you take with any image that isn’t custom, although due to the sheer number of options it is a relatively low risk.


A key advantage of custom work is that it represents your brand and you can ensure all photos used in your marketing efforts are consistent with the core message. You can’t do this with stock images. Photographers submit imagery that has wide appeal and can be used by as many people and businesses as possible. This results in predictable and cliché photos that are not going to capture individuality.

License Restrictions

You need to read the fine print, sometimes there are restrictions or requirements such as crediting the author or editorial-only use (not for advertising). Also make sure you are getting a royalty-free license to avoid any issues.