When it comes to visual branding, it is always ideal to utilize your own original images of your products and services, whether it be on your website or social media. However, there are also a number of very good reasons why you could also make use of stock images as well.
What are stock images?
Stock images are generic images, illustrations or photographs that are available for public use. Stock images may have garnered a negative reputation for being cheesy and lame in the past but the range and style of images available has grown substantially, offering more than the overly simplified, or cliche images that we used to associate with stock images.
Stock images can be very useful in providing extra imagery, besides specific product shots or depictions of services offered. Perhaps you have plenty of images of your products, but not enough images of where your business is located, or, if you are launching a summer sale, seasonally appropriate imagery. These are the perfect scenarios to employ stock images.
Why use stock images?
One reason to utilize a data bank of stock images is because there is a massive range of images available to choose from. Another reason is that simply downloading an image is cheaper and easier than producing the desired image from scratch yourself.
It should be noted that stock images can be used by anyone, and by more than one business or brand. If you would like, you can use a reverse Google image search to check where else a stock image has appeared, to ensure that it is not too prevalent or common. Depending on licensing, stock photos can even be edited or customized to further meet your company’s or brand’s needs.
If integrated well into your website and social media, stock images can add range, or fill in any blanks in your own custom brand imagery, giving visual context or examples of product use.
Another major advantage of using stock images is to bolster the original images used on your website or social media. Seasonal customization is one area that is easily enabled through the use of stock images. For example, when it comes to creating holiday images, the timeline may make getting your own Christmas tree and photographing it impossible.
You can’t wait until the middle of December to start sharing holiday sales or products with your customers! So, by utilizing stock photos, you can plan ahead and design seasonal content for your website or social media without having to source a holiday wreath or mistletoe in the middle of the summer.
Types of Licenses
Stock images are licensed in a few different ways that determine how they can be used.
Royalty free images can be used by anyone for free, whereas Rights Managed images can be licensed for a particular project or location, on a pay-to-use basis.
Enhanced licensing provides more freedom for use of the image besides a standard license meaning resale and commercial use may be allowed. This kind of enhanced licensing would allow you to use the stock image on your website as well as on a t-shirt.
Be mindful that usage rights may involve special attributions, for example, allowing use of the image but not allowing any editing of the image, so be sure to follow guidelines provided by specific stock image websites.
Why use copyright free images?
It is important to use copyright or royalty-free images when selecting stock images because then your company or brand is protected from any possible copyright claims or lawsuits. Many photographers and digital artist have copyrighted their images, and they use bots to search the internet to find these images.
If you are found using an image or graphic that is under copyright, you will receive a notification that you need to pay for the use of the image AND pay retroactively for the use of the image/graphics. This. can be thousands of dollars and it just isn't worth the stress of figuring out if you really owe that money and to who. There's also a lot of scammers who say they own images in hopes of scaring businesses into sending them money. The best way to ensure that you are protecting yourself and your business is to only use images and graphics that you know are copyright free.
Where to find stock images
These are the top five sites that I used for stock photos and imagery.
Pexels has a great variety of photos, videos that are royalty-free. Their images are aesthetic, cute and updated often.
Burst is an excellent resource for business oriented images, most ideal for retail and online sales. Burst is a free photo platform powered by Shopify.
Pixabay offers stunning free images and royalty free stock photos. Additionally it also has lots of vectors, as well as illustrations and graphics that can be useful for branding or promotions.
Unsplash is great site for free images, wallpapers and backgrounds. And it's sort of cool because it's powered by the image creators themselves!
While usually the images found here are available for payment, Adobe does offer a selection of free images as well. Overall the photo quality is high but you do need to have an adobe account to sign in before you can access the free images.