Annette Riley Web Design 

Wednesday Web Tip                                     July 17, 2013


Royalty-Free Stock Photos 101


Using your own photos and images often work best to get the point across about your business on your website, but if that is not possible or relevant to your situation, another good option is to use royalty-free stock photos.

It is easy to find images on the Internet.  Just go to Google and search.  But that doesn't mean you can just copy and use them on your website!


Some images are copyright-free. For example, an image created prior to 1923 is no longer protected by U.S. copyright and is in the public domain, which means it can be used by anyone for any purpose without a fee or license. 


However, most images are copyright-protected.  If you want to use an image that you did not create, you generally must obtain permission from the person who did create it and agree to their terms of use.


What is Royalty-Free? 


Typically the user pays a one-time fee for a royalty-free image license and can then use the image as many times and in as many places as they choose. The "free" in royalty-free does not mean the license is free, just that the user does not have to pay future royalties to use it.   


This is a non-exclusive use, which means that others may use it and you might even see it elsewhere on another site or in a brochure. Make sure you read and understand the terms of use for whatever image you decide to use.


(Note: If you want exclusive or more restricted use, that is called a "Rights-Managed" license. A Rights-Managed image is priced according to how you are specifically planning to use it and can be much more expensive.)


Where can I find Royalty-Free images?


There are many places to find stock photos (just Google stock photo websites). Stock illustrations, fonts, videos and audio files are also available.    


Generally you can browse the photos and prices without registering. When you register you can save photos to a lightbox area for future reference.  Questions to ask while looking at a site: Is the site easy to use? Do you like the photos?  Do they match your budget?


How much do they cost?


Price range varies. Ways to purchase stock photos include: 

  • Subscription by day, month or year which allows you to download a set amount of images during that time period. This is a smart option for someone who uses a lot of stock images or is working on a big project (or several projects) that will need many images.
  • There are also pay as you go options where you can purchase images a-la-cart or by using credits. A-la-cart is good when you only occasionally use a stock photo or image. Paying with credits is a good option when you are working on a project where you know you will be buying multiple images because you can get a discount for buying credits in bulk. Credits usually expire after a year from purchase date.
  • There are also stock photo sites that are free; however these can be hit or miss as far as quality and/or selection.  For me it makes more sense to pay a few dollars to quickly find what I am looking for, rather than to waste hours looking for a free option.

Some good quality and affordable stock sites are listed below.  I have found these to be easy to use and provide good quality images for those who are budget-conscious. 



Stock photos are a great resource for websites and other design projects! 



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Annette Riley Web Design