Nearly every product or service has its top-of-the-line product, and stock photography is no exception. Premium stock photos are high-end stock imagery, and they reflect it both in value and price.
But what makes a stock photo a premium one? In what kind of situation is it better to spend more on a premium stock image?
There are a lot of misconceptions around premium end-of-stock photo services, and sometimes you’re not really sure why or when you should consider them for your designs.
So today we will clear the picture for premium stock photos, and tell you the top three cases in which you should invest them. Let’s go!
If you want to know where to buy premium stock photos, check out our list of the Top Premium Stock Photo Sites!
If you’re not really sure what constitutes a stock photo as “premium”, don’t feel alone: a lot of people don’t. The wording in many free photo sites is partly responsible for this: they often refer to their free images as stock photos, and call premium stock images to those that are paid. This is a mistake.
Paid stock photos, like those you can find in some of the Best Stock Photo Sites ever, while high-definition and suitable for professional use, are not premium. They are premium, affordable, and flexible royalty-free images, totally worth discovering and using, of course. But what defines premium stock photography in this market is not the mere fact of being paid, but the premium quality of the images themselves.
What makes a premium stock image service? Different factors, that can happen isolated or various at once:
- Technical quality: photos taken with high-end cameras and retouched with first-class tools and equipment for the ultimate final results
- Skilled shot: images created by consummate photographers –renowned even–, where craftsmanship is visible
- Unique subject: photos portray places, situations, and topics in unusual ways
- Trendy: state-of-the-art photography with current style and themes
- Hard to get: exclusive events or models, semi-inaccessible or remote locations
- Artistic eye: emotions, moments, compositions captured in a personal way
- High curation: higher standard to review and handpick images within a collection
- Specialization: collections of images that cover a particular concept or topic, often narrow or under-represented in bigger libraries
Now it’s clear why they come at higher price points than your regular royalty-free stock images, right? In stock photos, premium means all this and sometimes more.
You might know that royalty-free stock photos are very cheap –it’s one of the main reasons we all love them–, so how much more do the premium stock photo sites charge for their photos?
You will be surprised to learn that is not as much as you think. The price depends on different factors. All the ones we listed above can modify the cost of a photograph, and the main price definer is the license type.
Royalty-Free Images – Affordable Premium Photos
Royalty-free images are the most affordable in the market, mainly due to the flexibility of their licensing terms and the fact they can be sold over and over (no exclusivity deals available). In the premium spectrum, they can be anything between $30 and $500 piece. The best price for premium royalty-free stock photos?
Photocase is a Berlin-based stock photography agency with years in the market that excels in extraordinary, artistic, unconventional stock images with the characteristically vibrant and modern Berlin style. Their library is purposefully small, tightly curated, and full of awesome photos ready to be used for commercial or non-commercial purposes, under Royalty-Free license. You can learn more in our Photocase review.
You can see some of the great shots in their collection that accompany this article, and you can also check this selection specifically curated for StockPhotoSecrets readers.
Photos here will cost you between $14 and $42 according to size. If you want to save, you can opt for credit packs that cut the image price in bulk purchases. This makes them one of the most affordable in the premium stock photography segment, especially when you consider many of these shots are exclusive to this agency, have a high production value, and have a very remarked artistic feel.
And you'll love this: we also have a great Photocase Coupon Code that gives you 5 FREE credits plus 10% off on your purchase!
Rights Managed Images – You Pay for What You Get, and It's a Lot
Rights Managed images can be much more expensive than Royalty-Free, sometimes reaching thousands of dollars per photo. The reason for this is that the license is a lot more specific, tailored for your intended use, and it can include rights that Royalty Free never covers. Mainly, you can get exclusive usage rights that ensure you will be the only one using a particular image. So where to go when you look for Rights Managed stock photos?
Getty Images is one of the most prestigious stock photography agencies in the world. Their brand's reputation is only exceeded by the quality and extension of their catalog, which includes photos from the most exclusive and first-class events, shots from every corner of the globe, artistic images from renowned photographers, and more. You will get more details in Getty Images
This company works mainly with Rights Managed licensing, but they also have a lot available under Royalty Free model. It's to be noted they work with both Commercial and Editorial-only content. Their images can be anything from $100 to thousands of dollars each depending on the rights you wish to buy.
If you choose Royalty-Free licensing, you can buy photos starting at $125. They go up in price according to size, but you can also seize their Ultrapacks offer, where you pay for your uploads upfront and get a nice discount over the single purchase price, of as much as 30% off. An added plus is that these Ultrapacks let you download photos and stock videos indistinctly.
So, knowing they are more expensive than others, and that you could get a better price for stock photos, why would you go for premium stock images? I think there are various times where it would make sense to invest a bit more in your photos, but here are the top 3:
- When you cater to high-profile audiences: most stock photo sites will give you technically ok images, but if your design is intended for professionals, high acquisition powered people, or similar –say, if it's an ad for a luxurious product or service for example–, then it makes a lot of sense that your visuals reflect that. A photo shot by a skilled photographer, with a nice artistic feel and optimal quality would do much more for those audiences.
- When you have a high-visibility design: regular (yet cool) stock photos are ideal to use in social media, web-based ads, etc. But if you're working on big marketing efforts –like a large billboard, a tv advert or similar– it would be very logical to spend a little more and get a very unique, eye-catching image. It's after all that such a high-visibility design is intended to achieve.
- When you aim at young demographics: premium stock photo libraries are mostly highly focused on the trendy style that works best with millennials and Gen Z audiences: authentic, natural-like, candid images with real models. If your designs are intended for these segments, it would be worth investing a bit extra to get the perfect authentic stock photo on a premium site. For more info on this, check out our Authentic Stock Photos article.
Keep in mind these are just the main cases. In pretty much all situations a premium stock photo can significantly improve a visual design, so if your budget allows it, it's always worth considering going for a premium stock photo site!
Knowing in which cases it makes more sense to spend a little more in images will also help you see the real value in premium stock photos: these are not just “stock photos that are more pricey”, but images that really have a higher value, as much commercially as artistically and quality-wise.
Of course, this doesn't mean regular stock photos are not great (they sure are!) and suitable for pretty much all use-case scenarios. It only means there are times and cases where, if possible, a premium stock photo can do more for you.
And you don't have to spend that much more, either! Just remember:
- In Photocase you get premium photos for $15-$25 each and much less with our Photocase Coupon Code
- In Getty Images you can get premium images for $125 or less with an Ultrapack
- Find a lot more options in our Top 5 Premium Stock Agencies list
So, are you embracing premium stock photos yet?