What Does Stock Photography Mean?

In short, stock photography is essentially a large bank of images that you can purchase a license to use. With the scope of its uses being so large, we’ll break it down here to provide additional clarification. There are quite a few aspects of stock photography that should be understood before diving in.

Stock Agencies

Stock Agencies such as Shutterstock, iStockphoto, Getty Images, etc. are great places to search for that specific image or illustration you are looking for. It may take a lot of searching to track down exactly what you are looking for, but fortunately, there are many stock image companies for you to peruse and find the perfect solution for your project. Don't forget the people behind the website, who will be more than happy to help you in your search or even have one of their photographers set up a photo to be exactly what you are looking for.

Before you start

Before starting your search, it is important to consider your needs as far as licensing and price. Each company has their own licensing terms, which may or may not include the rights you need for your project. There are different types of licenses, such as rights-managed or royalty-free. These licenses can also be extended for commercial use, which is another consideration to take into account. If the image is for personal use, there are still restrictions you must abide by, or you run the risk of consequences for your unauthorized use.

Stock Photos in use

Stock photography is utilized in mediums all around us. Marketing, advertising and design professionals use stock images regularly in web design, product marketing, publications, smartphone apps, posters, brochures, and much, much more. If you don’t have the talent or resources to be able to provide your own images, stock image sites provide the perfect place to find what you need from professionals all over the world.

Personal use of Stock Photos

For personal use, you could consider purchasing the rights to an image for decor in your home, your personal website, for homemade cards, an event poster, a school project, your yearly Christmas letter, or anything you can think of. The stock photo libraries are not just for professionals – They are used by anyone who has a need for an image for their project.

If you are a photographer

Additionally, stock photography sites are also a source of income to photographers and artists. Turn your hobby into money by submitting your images to various stock photo sites. Unless the exclusive rights of the image are sold, you will retain the rights to the image while selling the rights to use the image over and over to stock photo purchasers.

What is Microstock?

If you come across the word “microstock” – it is essentially the same thing as stock photography, but the images are licensed many times and for a very low cost. With photography and art becoming more and more available, the industry is headed to more of the microstock types of licenses rather than exclusive, high-cost licensing.

I am a publisher and entrepreneur in the stock imagery field. I focus on providing knowledge and solutions for buyers, contributors and agencies, aiming at contributing to the growth and development of the industry. I am the founder and editor of Stock Photo Press, one of the largest networks of online magazines in the industry. I am the founder of Microstock Expo, the only conference dedicated to the microstock segment. I created several software solutions in stock photography like WordPress plugins. Plus I am a recurrent speaker at Photokina Official Stage, and an industry consultant at StockPhotoInsight. I am passionate about technology, marketing and visual imagery.

1 Comment
  1. I’ve only recently come across your site (which is full of very interesting information for buyers that I will go back and study), but as a contributing photographer to many microstock sites, I was attracted first to this page for Photographers.

    I don’t know if a link is permitted here, but if a photographer is looking to make a start in microstock, I have recently published an eBook Getting Started in Stock Photography. This is aimed at beginners and focuses solely on how to submit your images, which sites are worth submitting to, a practical workflow for managing your photos, software packages to help smooth your work etc.


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