Finding & Selecting the Right Stock Media Resources for You

Finding and Selecting the Right Stock Media Resources for You - Article Title Image

As a graphic or web designer, it is important to have royalty free stock media to use in your design projects without having to be concerned about copyright infringement. This article highlights strategies for finding and selecting stock media resources, licensing and usage rights to be aware of, and types of payment plans often encountered. It is important to do some basic research when finding and selecting a vendor for stock media such as stock photos, stock illustrations, stock graphics, stock icons, stock video, stock audio, etc.

If you are a design student just starting course work, you will soon be looking for stock media to use in your projects. Instructors often make a few suggestions and then the typical next step is to begin using internet search engines to find stock media providers. The major problem with search engine listings is you end up having to open many of them and get acquainted with each vendor before being able to make an informed decision. There are some concrete differences to consider such as how does the vendor sell its content, what are the restrictions (if any) on using the media once purchased, and can you download it and reuse it over the course of a lifetime?

The first thing one must consider is the quality of the vendor’s stock media. Exceptional high quality is often priced at a premium if the content is rare or unique or costly to have produced. For example, some stock media from free resources may have photographs that are submitted by amateur photographers and free to use without restriction. However, the quality of the photo’s composition, lighting, subject matter, venue, and whether or not professional models were involved will affect the asking price and usage rights for the image. Professional graphic and web designers are keen on selecting imagery that meets the specific objective artistically and/or to advertise to a target market or demographic. Often, one superior stock photograph can cost upwards of $35 to $50 and the larger the size and resolution of the image, the more costly it becomes. Large images at high resolution are a premium.

Therefore, selecting a stock media vendor can also present the added challenge of pricing per image as well as a wide range of professional content.  Researching the pricing structure from different vendor’s websites will yield some common pricing options. It is important to understand your short-term and long-term needs for stock media so that you can choose the vendor who has a pricing option most fits your budget and needs. For example, there are 3 major types of pricing options that major online stock media vendors tend to use but will typically only use one pricing option. The pricing options are: direct, one-time-only cash purchase, monthly or yearly subscription fees where you can download a certain limit of images per month, or a credit based system where you purchase a bundle of credits then purchase media using those credits. Purchasing plans based on credits typically expire if not used within a specified time frame and are non-refundable.

If you have a large need for stock media in a short period of time, a subscription plan usually works best because you can download an unlimited number of images not for resale. However, if you only need a couple of images for a one-off project or semester in school, a credit based purchase plan often works best. Keep in mind that the same image at larger sizes is often times double or triple the amount of credits required for purchase which can cause one image to be upwards of $50.

Lastly, be sure to get acquainted with each vendors’ usage and licensing permissions.  Can the image be used more than once in different campaigns? Can the image be used in all realms of media such as Television and movies or is it restricted to print based media? Does the license to use the media expire or diminish over time? These are really important question to answer before taking the time to draft a project using media and pitching the project to a client only to find out later that you have to disappoint them with a restriction based on vendor’s usage rights.

Some major stock media vendors to consider would include:

For further information on this article’s topic, refer to the following suggested readings:



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