Understanding the Basics of Using Stock Photos - MBP Advisors + Accountants

Using stock photos for your website or other advertising media sounds appealing, especially if they are free. But before you start taking images off the internet, it pays to understand exactly what the rules are for using stock images. And we’re talking pays because if you get things incorrect, you could end up paying big bucks.

Beginners Guide to Using Stock Photos

Stock photos generally come into two groups: free and paid. Paid images are mostly sold by giant stock image websites. They let you use the photo for a fee, where the fee varies according to the size and quality of the image, what you want to use it for and how often you want to use it.

Free stock images are free to use, but often have specific limitations on them. Not following their guidelines can also prove costly. Here is an explanation of some of the major terminology regarding using stock photos:

  • Rights Managed – this license gives you the ability to use a photo for a specific purpose for a specific length of time. Usually, it is for the sole usage of the image and if you want to extend its use, then you pay.
  • Royalty Free – this is not a free photo, but rather one you must pay for. The term royalty free is referring to a flat rate you pay to use the photo wherever you want, to a set limit.
  • Extended Licenses – should you wish to use a Royalty Free image beyond the limits of what the seller has set, you’ll need to pay an extended license for it.
  • Creative Commons – there are two parts to this. The first, CC0 is where you can use the image without attribution because the owner has given up all rights. The second is CC 2.0 where you can use the image but must give attribution to the image owner.
  • Public Domain Image – this is an old image which copyright has expired, or there are no longer any ownership rights.

The next thing on your to-do list is to find the right stock images to use.

Finding Free Stock Photo Websites

Who doesn’t like things for free, including stock images? Here are some of the most well-known websites which offer free stock images (not Royalty Free, by the way):

If you are happy to pay for a photo, you could try Shutterstock, Adobe Stock or Getty Images. What are your favourite stock photo sites? Let us know in the comments below!

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