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Pros and cons of buying stock photography

Pros and cons
Brian Jackson / Alamy Stock Photo

There are a lot of misconceptions about stock photography – that it isn’t creative, the images are clichéd or that you can only get a certain ‘style’ of photography – but these views are a little outdated. Stock photography has moved on a lot over the years and as a result, stock photo agencies like Alamy are a great place to source all types of imagery. From classic wildlife and travel, to hi-end creative and mobile photography, there’s a huge choice of stock photography.

Take a look at our stock photography timeline to see how things have changed over the past 60 years.

Of course, nothing is ever perfect and there can be some down sides to buying stock photography, but on the flip side there are also some great benefits. This blog post aims to try an dispel any myths about stock photography and give you a better understanding of when and why stock can be the right option for your project.

Why stock photography is great…

1. There’s loads of choice

Stock photo agencies source images from photographers and other photo agencies to make their collection as broad as possible.

Alamy has a collection of over 80 million images, so there’s a huge choice in both style and content. Whatever project you’re working on you’ll be able to find an image that works for you. We have images from over 40,000 photographers and 600 photo agencies around the world so our collection is international too. In fact, we are really well-known with our customers for having such a diverse collection, including some very niche and random images.

If you’re planning to buy stock photography regularly for your business it’s also beneficial that new images are added every day – so however often you need to buy images, there is always something new to see.

The idea of choice might be a little daunting – after all, how do you find the right image for you if you have to sift through 80 million? The answer is great filters and relevant keywords. Learn more about searching for images in our blog how to make the most of the tools on Alamy.

2. You can get a helping hand

Buying imagery can be confusing if you don’t fully understand the legal side of things like model and property releases, so buying through a stock agency is a great way to get access to experts and resources who can help you out.

As well as the legal stuff there are some other things our expert team can help you with. These include free picture research, advice on which license to buy and general advice on buying and using images.

3. It’s convenient

Sourcing your images from a stock library is really fast, and is a simple as finding the image and buying the license. Plus, you can get a bulk deal if you’re buying more than one image which means you get great value for money.

Buying stock images is particularly convenient if you’re working on a small project, or need an image for a last-minute presentation or blog article. You can quickly find what you need and have the hi-res image ready to use within minutes.

Some things to consider before buying stock photos…

1. It’s not tailored to your exact needs or brand

Sometimes you need an image for an advertising or marketing campaign that represents your brand or your products accurately – in this case, it might be worth commissioning a photographer and taking them on the journey with you. You will end up with some great assets that are personal to your company and you can use them over and over again.

If you’re looking for something that works with your brand, there are some filters you can use to narrow down your search results including our colour wheel which helps you search for images that exactly match your brand colours.

2. It’s not exclusive to you

All the images on a stock site are available for anyone to license, so there’s always the risk that someone else might be using the same image as you. This could be particularly bad if it’s a competitor!

It is possible to buy a stock image exclusively, which is great if you’re using an image on a high-profile advertising campaign and don’t want anyone else using it – but this will increase the cost of the image significantly.

3. Licensing restrictions

When you buy a stock image it is different to paying a photographer directly for an image. Each image needs a license that reflects how you are going to use the image. This can be really confusing, especially if you’re new to buying stock photos – but don’t worry, we are here to help.

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