Ever see that really hot girl or guy that’s used on EVERY single website, bus ad, or magazine? You can never think of where you’ve seen them before. But you know you’ve seen them on some other site or maybe on the park bench a few blocks down. Yup, that’s a stock photo (or stock model to be specific). Once you see them, you’ll see them everywhere.
But did you know, for pretty cheap, you can use that same model in your designs as well?
Stock photography is one of the most important elements I stress when it comes to designing and developing an amazing website or other creative medium. They are used by everyone, everywhere. In definition: Stock photography is a supply of photos, illustrations, vectors, fonts, and even video that are licensed to users (or designers like us) to use in our work. They completely take your designs to the next level and honestly change your entire workflow and quality of every product you product since you first start using them. Trust me on this.
Stock photography is like being a kid and having every toy in Toys R Us within arms reach. It’s pretty nuts to be honest. The possibilities of what you can create and design with stock photography are endless. You are no longer shackled to the idea that you have to create every single element in your design from scratch. You no longer have to sift through creative commons for hours searching pages on pages for ONE decent photo you can use in your design. You no longer have to waste your precious time.
With stock photography, you can access a database (searchable by image kind of like google) where photographers and artists around the world upload and showcase their professionally designed, shot, and/or created images. For a price, you can use ANY/ALL of these images in your designs. As often as you want. You will have full license to every file you purchase. It’s a pretty magical thing. Just search for what you’re looking for, and boom – results. You will be surprised with what you can honestly find in these millions of gems. I’ve been able to find sexy women eating healthy, eating unhealthy, and holding high-powered fully automatic weapons. Literally anything you can imagine and it is awesome!
Lucky for us, the stock photography business is booming. There are tons of stock photography sites on the internet competing to sell you, their images.
Here are a few notable ones…
Veer has millions of images to use. A lot of them geared towards design. They’ve got royalty-free stock photos, vector files, and even fonts. They have a few different ways to pay. Pay as you go, pre-paid credit packages, and also a subscription model. Definitely worth checking out or trying. I haven’t used them very often but they have pretty good prices.
iStock is pretty good site. I see a lot of site’s using photos I’ve seen on here. I’ve used quite a few individual ones as well. I’ve had a client send me links to photos on iStock to use quite a few times too. They are a pretty popular site and have millions of royalty-free images, illustrations, videos, and music clips you can sort through. I used the very often in the past but wasn’t a huge fan of their pricing. Not that I agree the resources aren’t worth it, but there are other sites with the same quality photos with better prices. They offer two different ways to pay. Pay per download and a Subscription model.
FREE IMAGES. When I first started designing. I had no money to afford stock photography. So I had to search and sift through a ton of free sites to use photos from. This site was the first one I always went to and usually was able to find something on here to work with. They don’t have millions of images but if you have no choice, make the best of it and rock your design.
Flikr is another excellent place to check for free images. Although not all the images on ‘top-notch’, you’re sure to find something you can use. Be careful and look at the licensing though. Not all users allow their photos to be used commercially.
5. Shutterstock (my favorite)
Shutterstock is my bread and butter at the moment. Although expensive on first look, I’ve been able to find pretty much anything I was looking for and you get way more than your money’s worth. You can purchase individual photos or vectors but they will be more on the expensive side like iStock. If you have the money, get a plan. I pay 250/mo and can download up to 25 photos, vectors, or illustrations and any size I want. Usually individually prices at around $20/each, 250 for 25 downloads a day is a STEAL. Worth getting once you’re killing it with your design. They’ve also got video too.
6. Getty Images
One of the first companies to start licensing imagery online. Now it’s got millions of stock images, illustrations, and even video. Like iStock and Shutterstock, they’ve made it pretty easy to find what you’re looking for. And you probably will. Unlike shutterstock, they are individually priced.
Bigstock is all about solid design, inspiring images, and royalty-free stock photos. They’re another big site. They’ve got over 17 million photos to search though and have a subscription plan similar to shutterstock.
You’re legally not allowed to use any image that is not yours in your designs (unless it’s creative commons). If you do, and the creator sees, you can run into a pretty muddy situation. In most cases, they will just send you a cease and desist. However, they can always escalate the situation if you or your clients are using their work in a design that is making a significant amount of money. Although it’s kind of a grey area, they could be entitled to some of it.
Plain and simple, don’t use other peoples work unless you have license to do so.
But what if my client has their own images?
Unless you or your client is an amazing photographer and has entire library of excellent photos to use on their website, you should be using stock photography. Even for mockups. Do not. I repeat, do not – use shitty photos in your designs. I know.. Sometimes your client has a product, they cannot/won’t hire a professional photographer and/or think they are one so they take a photos themselves. They shoot the product or products on their phone, edit them on instagram, and send them to you. They think it will work just fine for their website. And they might. But usually in my experience, these photos are terrible, pixelated, and undersized. These photos are going to destroy their website and they are probably going to destroy your entire design too. The last thing you want to do is try to ‘shoehorn’ some shitty photos into your design. Talk about losing passion in a project.
If your client has products, recommend they hire a professional photographer to shoot some shots of them. They don’t have to be ‘crazy professional’ but atleast have them get some photos with some decent composition and zero pixelation. At least you can work with those. Isolated with white backgrounds are also a must. If they can’t afford it, don’t stress. Work your hardest magic on their design and deliver accordingly. It’s not your fault the quality of the photos on the website are shit. You’re just doing what the client wants. Accept the circumstances and move on.
Bottom line: Use stock photography as much as possible. Keep it simple. Don’t choose awkward photos.