Stock Photo Agency Basics

How to work with stock photo agencies to obtain the images you need

If you use any kind of graphics for your business, you'll almost certainly need to work with at least one stock photo agency. Copyright-free images will only take your business so far; if you want a professional look, you'll want to find quality images through a stock photo service instead. Fortunately, these days, stock photo agencies abound--and are easy to work with, once you understand a few stock photo agency basics.

Stock photography agencies offer images (usually online) that may be licensed for your business' use. This saves you the cost and time of hiring a professional photographer. Yet before you approach a stock image agency, you need to consider:

1. Does your business need rights-managed images from photography agencies?

2. Do you require royalty-free images from a stock image agency?

3. Where do you go to find out more about stock photo services?

Buy rights-managed images from a stock photography agency

Often the highest-quality images are sold on a "rights-managed" basis. This means the stock photo agency carefully controls how the images are used. This licensing is usually based on the type of usage (editorial or advertising, for example); specific use (a nationally distributed magazine or a regional one, for instance); the duration of use; territory (for example, the United States or the United Kingdom); size of image and exclusivity. One of the biggest benefits of using rights-managed images is you can buy the rights to be the only business using them.

Use royalty-free images from stock image agencies

Images that are "royalty-free" aren't free to use. However, such images do not require that you pay a royalty each time you use them. Simply pay a one-time fee for the image; then, you may use that image whenever you like. A downside to this type of arrangement is that your business will not have exclusive use of the photo.

Find more stock image agencies

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of stock photo agencies in business in the United States. To help determine which ones provide the highest quality and most reliable service, check out professional photographer and designer recommendations, which are abundant on the web.
  • Remember that even with royalty-free images, you typically can only use the image so many times before paying another fee. Read the agency's agreement carefully before buying and using any stock photos.

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