Pros and Cons of Using Stock Photos for Your Content

There is no doubt that stock photography can be very handy in your marketing materials, both online and offline. However, there are some pros and cons in relation to using it that you need to consider before you make a decision as to whether to acquire or buy an image, or create it yourself in-house.

What Are Stock Photos?

Stock photos are given away or sold online by a number of sites and companies. They are a convenient shortcut for those who want to find an image quickly that will support their content. 

These days, stock photographs can be royalty-free from various sites such as Pixabay, or purchased through either credits at a site, or a certain fee. You can also get royalty-free images from Wikimedia Commons.

But it is important to be aware of the pros and cons of using stock photos. Let’s start with the pros.

The Advantages of Using Stock Photos

There are a number of pros to using stock photos.

1. Affordable 

You can get high-quality, professional images, for a reasonable price. You don’t need to worry about setting up models, photo shoots and so on.

2. Fast

There are countless sites that sell stock images. Chances are over time some will become your favorite, because you know you just have to type a few words into the search box and you will instantly find what you are looking for. There’s no waiting until you get around to taking a photo or organizing a photo shoot.

3. A range of options

Stock photo sites offer a huge variety of images for almost any topic or niche. Searching at least one of the top sites should give you a variety of choices.

4. Professional-quality images

Top photographers from all over the world sell their photos at stock sites, so you access the incredible talent of these professionals for a fraction of the cost of hiring them directly.

5. Buying only what you need, and knowing what you are buying

You see exactly what you are buying, and only have to buy what you need. There’s no expensive photo shoot and no waiting to see how well, or how badly, the photos turn out.

The Disadvantages of Using Stock Photos

As convenient as stock photos are, there are several disadvantages.

1. A lot of people using them

Your marketing material will not look unique because anyone who can afford to can buy stock images. This might not be the case with large niches, but if you are working in a small, specialized one, it might be better to do your own photos.

2. Confusion about pricing, sizes and formats

Stock photo sites will often offer the image in a range of sizes and quality of images. You need to know what you are going to be using the images for prior to buying. In most cases, you will probably be using them for your site or blog, in which case web-quality images are fine (and also cheaper). However, if you were planning to use them in a print brochure, for example, you would need one suited to this purpose, and it could be significantly more expensive.

3. Licensing issues

There can be a lot of confusion over which license you have and what you are allowed to use an image for. For example, free stock photos are usually royalty-free, but they might be Creative Commons, in which case, you would need to cite the original URL of the photo. 

In other cases, the license fee might vary considerably depending on where it will be used, and whether or not the purpose will be directly for profit. For example, getting a license for a stock photo to use on the cover of your book can be very costly, if it is allowed at all. When in doubt, always read the fine print and contact their customer service department with any special circumstances you might have. 

Stock photos are fast and convenient to use, but it’s important to be aware of the disadvantages too – particularly in regard to licensing issues. 

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