Are you using stock photography?


I’m currently working as an intern at a design agency, and have already been involved in preparing a few client presentations. One thing I’ve noticed, is that even though we are often searching for sets of rather specific images to illustrate a point, so far we haven’t used any stock imagery as far as I know.

And that brings me to the question - Are you using stock photography? Seems to me it could be cheaper spending a few quid on a good image rather than searching another hour for another decent “free” one.


Tell me about it. Nightmare isn’t it. Though stock images can get overly expensive searching through free stock websites can be a comlpete waste of time. Perhaps this could be a good thread to put up some good arguements to clients as to why to pay for stock images or of good free sites anyone knows of.

In most cases, the time it takes for someone to find a good free photo (for which you probably are in some kind of copyright violation, if it’s a truly good photo) probably cost more (in wages) than buying a stock photo outright. If it’s only for a presentation, then I’m guessing you won’t need a large image, which makes it even cheaper.

Same goes with 3d models. I often buy 3d models on some projects (for photo renders, not for product design modeling) than model it myself, especially if they’re looking for a specific object to fill the picture.

We use a lot of stock, and have built up a nice library of images. We also take a lot of custom photos which is nice because then it is yours and no one else will have the same photo in their presentation. It takes a bit of time, but once you have an environment set up, and a good volunteer model in the right wardrobe, you can take as many shots as you want at as many angles as you want… if you have the right equipment and a team member who is a bit of a shutterbug, it works out well.

My thoughts exactly.

We definitely take custom shots as well, done a couple days of photoshoots, but mostly the camera is out for research, immersions, photos of mockups / prototypes, capturing moodboards etc. Well,so far anyway.

Cheers for all the replies guys!

All the places I have worked at didn’t have a stock photo account.

Aside from working on my google image search skills, bookmarked designer-ish sites, and scanning cool magazines, I have been snow balling my own library of pics since my school days and have taken them office to office, sharing them and getting people to add to them and it comes in handy.

Word of advice: if you are in charge of finding these images, be very clear about how the document will be distributed. If it’s internal, then you probably don’t need to worry about copyright (not that you shouldn’t care). However, if there’s even a small chance of going out to external partners, then you should pay more attention to your image sources.


  1. Because your boss will likely ASSUME your sources are legitimate. No one will tell you this, but if there’s ever a copyright issue brought up, they’ll eventually pin it on the person who found the images, at which point you’ll have to admit that you have no rights to the image.
  2. Because (and this has happened to me) someone out there is just as lazy/ignorant about copyright as everyone else is and will think it’s okay to use the image YOU’VE provided as a “freebie” to use elsewhere. When THEY run into copyright issues, again, you’ll be caught up in it because you don’t have the rights to it either.

Is this really a big issue? It depends on many factors: where these images will be distributed and the size of your company. The bigger and more public your company is, the bigger the target it is for litigation. Stay on the safe side. Convince your boss to spend the $20 or so on a legally obtained image. Plus, it’ll look better on the presentation, the resolution will be consistent, and if the same stock photographer took all of the pics that you need, then even the style will be consistent. Just remember: don’t put yourself on the line just because your boss/company doesn’t want to spend the money. Explain to them the risk they are taking and most of the time they’ll understand the $20 is totally worth it.

We use alot of stock photography, and like yo, we have built up a nice library of images to which we slowly add as required. We typically buy royalty free at costs that are as high as $400 per image, but averaging $300. On occasion we have gone rights managed to get that better image, but the cost can very quickly become prohibitive.

I usually take photos of our products and them carefully insert them into the stock photo’s to produce images that would require thousands of dollars through a professional. Though we have gone that route too. The problem with stock photo sites is trying to fine images that do not look staged, and that can be tough.

Pay the price. Get the consistent quality, and tell your boss it’s an investment in the future. Which it is!

BTW. We find the best images are on Corbis, Inmagine and Gettyimages. Especially the first two.

Agreed, finding non-stock looking stock photos can be a challenge. I’ve been toying with the idea of renting out a really nice hotel suite for a day, taking in a bunch of equipment, and shooting a ton of angles appropriate for the types of product I’m working on. It would cost a lot, but if done right could save money and time in the long run.

I love it when you see someone else using the exact same stock photo your company picked. It happened a few years ago, the smiling guy on our product was also on the poster welcoming people to the Bank of America branch. :laughing:

We attempted the onsite photo shoot too, but were requested to have models using the products. No one in the office wanted to be a model and when told the price of a professional model(s), plus hiring the conference/board room with the right high tech look (surpising how many other companies don’t want you to use their rooms for your profit!), and the whole idea was instantly killed. They still want it, but they still will not pay for it.

So we continue use stock photo’s and on occasion come across an image with people that works well. In a word, even though I can spend hours looking for the right image, and sometimes still come up dry, stock photo’s are a godsend and an integral part of our product development and marketing efforts that we have invested thousands in.

All of the work that my staff and I do require photography/graphics and 3D models. Many of our clients, depending on their industry don’t have much for photos and graphics, let alone 3D models so we find ourselves searching for “inspiration” photos/graphics to support the designs we create. Sometimes we need specific types of photos for texture maps or supporting graphics, but all of it is purely conceptual. That said, if a client likes something we designed using these things we buy the rights to the actual photo or we find something very similar (which then becomes a chore).

Some valuable tools we use for image and 3D model searches:

Cooliris browser plugin, which beats the pants off of GIS:

Google image search: You can drag an image from your computer into the search bar and GIS will search for similar photos, not many folks are aware of this feature.

Advanced Google search: put in a domain name and then select a file type, we usually search for .PDFs that we then open in Photoshop, select image in the dialog box, and then rip the photos out of print piece PDF. Sometimes this yields high res photography gold.

Totally free 3D online model library, a real life saver in a pinch

helpful tips, thanks!

I used to do pretty much this once in a while at a printing house a few years back, thanks for the reminder! There were so many requests for company letter paper, envelopes etc. from people who have no idea that a pixelated thumbnail logo just won’t do it for print! :slight_smile:

Also, here’s a budget stock photo site I came across:
I don’t know if it will stand the test of time, but it’s definitely better than any free stock site I’ve seen. Most pics seem to be priced at less than $15 even full size, so could be great for projects on a tight budget.

In the quest for decent images to use in my own design work it seems almost impossible sometimes to find just the right photograph when searching a free stock website. The photos are out there, available sure, but the majority of appropriate stock photography seems to be within the paid stock world. This has been stated previously and I tend to agree with others on this thread. You must manage cost with your design. If you are able to find appropriate stock photography for free without going over your quota for time spent, then obviously the free photos are worth the time. If however the time spent searching for free photos out-costs paid stock photos, I would stick with the paid photos. It’s really about time and cost management.

Something else that could help out would be to consider the projects you are working on. How will your design be applied? Copyright is extremely important in design. Sometime’s it’s a pain and sometimes it’s helpful. I try not to use google images in most of my design, but occasionally I am able to use google images in pieces that won’t be distributed. Internal copyright is a bit more flexible than external and commercial copyright. Application of design and copyright and cost/time management will determine whether free stock photos are worth the investment. Think about the quality. Think about the overall cost. Hopefully that helps.