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A Quick Guide to Using Stock Photos

A Quick Guide to Using Stock Photos

Learn about using stock photos responsibly and effectively.

A quick keyword search on the internet can yield thousands or even millions of images. However, businesses should not just select the first relevant image they like and use those freely, because many of the images we search for online have copyright owners or licensing partners (stock photo companies). To avoid facing legal issues, it is best to review the licensing rights of images before using it.

At Jezweb, we naturally make constant use of photographs and images when we design, build and deliver digital marketing for our clients. We have compiled for you a discussion on what stock photos are, how licensing works, and how people can use stock photos effectively.

What are Stock Images and Photography?

What are Stock Images and Photography?

Stock photography is the process of shooting images for the purpose of selling them to agencies that put them in their image library and distribute them under special licenses on behalf of the photographers, who remain the images’ legal owners. This allows buyers to use their photos for basic or commercial functions.

Stock images can be divided into three major types – vectors, illustrations, and stock photography. After generating the images, the artists will place their artwork or image for licensing and wait until someone buys a license for their work. The buyers are usually businesses and commercial companies.

Why Use Stock Images for Businesses?

Stock images are visual aids that impart a message to their audience. Reading large blocks of text is not something consumers want to do online these days, so images are used instead to capture their audience’s immediate attention.

According to Brain Rules, people are only likely to remember 10% of the information they read after three days. But with the help of relevant images, that rate could rise to 65%. With the help of visual cues like stock images (together with well-written material), it’s much easier to pique readers’ interests, especially on the web and on mobile devices.

What’s helpful with stock agencies is that businesses will have an easier time finding images they require for their content – it’s faster and much cheaper to look up images on stock image websites than to produce a photoshoot or create an illustration for content.

3 Common Stock Image Categories

3 Common Stock Image Categories

According to Hubspot research, 70% of businesses believe in the power of content marketing and one of the top strategies in content marketing is utilising visual materials.

However, companies can’t just grab any image they find on Google and use those for their content. That’s the fastest way to getting sued, especially if the image they use is copyrighted material.

Knowing how to use stock images can help avoid the financial damages (not to mention the brand reputation damage) of being accused of copyright infringement. Generally, there are three main categories of stock image materials online:

  • Public Domain
  • Royalty Free
  • Rights Managed

Public Domain

Public domain images are materials that are free to use even without a license. Businesses can grab free stock photos from a few websites online. It is vital to read the fine print when confirming if an image is under the public domain. If it is free and requires no attribution, then companies can safely use the images without having to shell out money.

Royalty Free

Most people think Royalty-free images are free. However, being royalty-free does not mean that it is free under public domain. It means that a stock image can be purchased as a ‘one-off without paying royalties for every use.

The stock image can be used in several media, like print and digital. When using royalty-free images, businesses should read the licensing terms to ensure that the attribution and personal vs. commercial use clauses are in line with what they need.

Rights Managed

In this type of license, a stock image may only be used once for the type of content indicated upon purchase. While this method may not be the most cost-effective of the three, it does come with a perk: Businesses can pay for exclusive rights for a stock image.

That means that, unlike public domain and royalty-free images, only those who bought a rights-managed license can use the stock image they selected, and only for a set amount of time.

How Do I Select the Right Stock Images?

How Do I Select the Right Stock Images?

Companies and their marketing teams should be decisive in selecting their stock images. As much as possible, it is recommended that companies avoid using stock photos that look too staged or inauthentic, for example.

The thing with stock photos is many of them look too common and too staged. Those types of images often get flak for looking fake, so companies should make sure that they do not use generic-looking stock photos.

Instead, it is better to review as many available options as possible and select one that looks the most natural. Of course, apart from looking natural, the photo should be nuanced to the content and text: A combination of a clear message and a nice visual makes a digital experience that audiences will remember for the days to come.

How Do I Identify Authentic-Looking Stock Images?

How Do I Identify Authentic-Looking Stock Images?

A discerning eye would be able to immediately spot what looks staged or fake. After all, companies are made up of people who are consumers of media as well. If something looks too fake or staged to them, it will probably look inauthentic to their readers as well. To assist businesses in having an easier time selecting stock images that look natural, here are some helpful tips and things to look out for:

Real people vs. Models

Among most important things that companies should look at when selecting stock images are the people featured in the material. Is it obvious that the whole setting was staged? Do the people look like individuals shot at the perfect time, or do they look more like models made to look perfect?

Having a more natural and lived-in material will make one’s stock image choice work better than generic-looking ones. In addition, with an authentic-looking image, the content businesses will put out will seem more genuine as well.

Posture and poses

Does the subject’s pose look staged? Do they look too perfect, or do they smile too widely? If it seems like the pose was purposely done for the picture, then it is probably staged.

Instead of looking for an image made to look perfect, it is better to look for an image that seems perfectly imperfect. This is where authenticity comes into the picture (please excuse the pun). A perfectly taken authentic shot could generate a larger audience than a generic-looking image.

How Do I Select the Best Stock Images for Content?

How Do I Select the Best Stock Images for Content?

The number of images a person will yield with a simple image search is both a blessing and a curse. While businesses will have more options, it can be challenging to narrow down what fits the business most out of all existing images in the gallery. To help narrow down the choices, here are some tips in selecting the best stock image for a company’s content:

  • Use images that fit the brand’s message.
  • Think about the audience profile.
  • The most-used image isn’t always the best option.

Use Images That Fit the Brand’s Message

To select the best stock image, consider the message to be conveyed: It should be tailored to the accompanying test and the overall branding of the company.

Think About the Audience Profile

Is the company’s target market leaning towards young professionals, or is it targeting those near retirement? Does it want to tap the X market, or do the Y market?

Knowing a company’s audience is an excellent way to see what type of content they are more likely to need. For instance, it’s not ideal to choose a minimalist stock image for those on the verge of retirement. Similarly, it’s not advisable to use stock photos of posh-looking subjects when the target is middle to low-income families.

The Most-Used Image Isn’t Always the Best Option

Content should look different to other content out there, but that’s one of the disadvantages of using stock images you can easily find on the front page of stock agencies. To be more unique and authentic, it’s better to select well-targeted and well-chosen images among the pool of existing images.

There’s a tool called Tineye that lets viewers know how many times an image has been used online. Look up the numbers before purchasing a stock image.

Let Jezweb Help You with Your Business Content Creation and Digital Marketing

If your digital marketing has not been working out great for you, then you might want to tap the experts for help. At Jezweb, we offer a wide range of services for your company, including web design and content creation, among many others. For more than a decade, we’ve helped hundreds of local businesses create and maintain their image online.

Take the worry out of stock photo selection and licensing; let an experienced digital team help you with easier content creation using good quality stock images…and much more. Visit us at for more details or contact us directly today by filling in this digital form, calling us on (02) 4950 1140 or (02) 4951 5267 or emailing us at We are looking forward to taking your digital presence to the next level.