Royalty-Free vs. Stock Photos: Differences and Benefits

Many individuals use the phrases “royalty free” and “stock” interchangeably when talking about photography however there is a distinction, and it’s important to understand the distinction when planning a design project.


It was once that if you needed a photograph, you hired a professional photographer who created a customized shot for you. There are still many instances when a custom shot is the only real possibility—to take a photograph of your new product, your facility, your workers, etc.

Nevertheless, there are occasions when a photo is used more to convey a mood or set a scene. For example, a financial planning company shows a retired couple walking and laughing alongside the beach. This suggests a carefree retirement achieved through careful investments. These types of images, typically called way of life shots, are often generic sufficient that a monetary planner in Maine, an insurance agent in Minnesota and a stockbroker in Florida could all use a similar photo of their promotional materials.

At some point, photographers realized they had a stock of previously shot, unused photos. Possibly they have been extras from a custom shoot, or images whose utilization rights had elapsed. Alternatively, quite a bit designers, marketers and ad companies realized they didn’t have a the finances to fly to the Caribbean, pay a professional photographer and his assistants, and set up a custom shoot. So stock images grew to become a new product. Initially they had been largely bought directly from photographers, however then stock companies compiled them collectively to make the research faster for designers and to assist photographers with their marketing.

Stock photography

Stock photography is usually priced the identical way a custom shoot is—the payment is predicated on usage. Obviously with stock images, there are not any direct costs of getting the shot made. The charge is set on where the picture will be used and for how long. For instance, it might be running on the entrance cover of a catalog that is distributed throughout the U.S. throughout one vacation season. Or, it might be running inside a book at postage-stamp size on an educational flyer distributed only within the State of New York. While you buy a stock photograph, you’re only supposed to make use of it for that utilization, so if you love the front cover of your catalog and determine to make use of the same image on your web site and your different marketing materials, you’ll want to negotiate and pay for more usage rights.

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Royalty free images

In contrast, royalty-free images lets you pay one flat charge and you should utilize the image as much as you like. Generally, there are different costs depending on the decision of an image. A low-res file that may only work as a small web site image costs less than a large-scale, high resolution image that could possibly be used in each print and web. If you’re thinking about building a marketing campaign round a key photograph, it is appealing to just pay one fee. Once you’ve paid for it, you should utilize an image in any new circumstance that arises. However, there’s a downside to royalty-free images.


One other distinction between royalty-free and stock pictures is that royalty-free images could be purchased over and over by individuals everywhere. The photo you’ve chosen for the entrance page of your web site would be the exact photo your competitors have chosen for their web site. As a designer, I’ve definitely see photographs I’ve worked with, utilized in different places.

Traditionally, with stock images, because you purchased a photo for a certain usage, the stock company might inform you who else was using the image. They might additionally tell you if there have been restrictions. For example, an insurance company in Maine may purchase the rights to a stock image in a way that does not permit every other insurance corporations in New England to make use of the image.

For more information in regards to free stock images visit the web site.

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