The first question most people have when they start to think about images for a project they’re working on is, “Where will I find good images to use?”
To answer that question we’ll start by looking at the four options for getting images, and what the pros and cons of each are. (I’ll give you a big hint: stock photos are one of them!)
Option 1: Take your own photographs
You can take your own photos, if you think you’re pretty good behind the lens and you’ve got the time and equipment.
One of the common pitfalls I see with this option is people taking snapshots with their phones or simple point ‘n shoots. While phones are getting better and better at taking high quality images, there’s certain things like lighting and angles that still require professional equipment (and a trained eye!) to make it work.
Too many DIY photos end up being too dark, out of focus, and/or poor quality, so this is usually not a good option and I try and dissuade people from doing it.
Too many DIY photos end up being too dark, out of focus, and/or poor quality. Click To Tweet
Option 2: Hire a professional photographer
If you’ve got the budget you can hire a photographer to take some photos for you. This is a probably the best option if you have a very niche service or product that require specific imagery.
However, remember that with this option you’re probably going to have to do a lot of thinking, not just about what kind of pictures you want, but also what props you’ll use; if you are going to need a model, or where it will be done. Not to mention the homework you’ll need to do in order to find the right photographer. Not everyone with a camera is a photographer, much in the same vein as not everyone with a copy of Photoshop is a designer.
That’s not really something everyone’s up for, especially if you’re busy trying to run a business. Plus this option can easily run into the hundreds, even thousands of dollars, so be sure you have a budget set aside just for photography.
Option 3: Images? Who needs them!
Here’s a novel idea: not every single project out there necessarily requires images. However, most of the time, if you have a body of text, you should have a relevant image to accompany it.
Why is that? It’s simple.
Images allow people to scan your work and decide if they want to read it.
They don’t just look pretty—when selected with a specific purpose photos actually serve to tell your story in a different way, in an emotional, primal and reactive way. A good picture can spark up desire, fuel a commitment, or just generate curiosity and get people to read your text. Remember, an image is worth a thousand words.
What’s nice about this option is, it’s cheaper and usually easier, but you risk losing out on potential interest.
Option 4: Use stock photos
There’s a lot of pros to using stock photos; they’re relatively affordable, they look professional, and the variety of vendors allows you to tap into millions of options. Many of them are also royalty-free, which means you can use them as often as you like, for whatever purpose you like.
Of course, there are some cons to using stock photos too. Some of the images can look, well…stocky. Often the subject matter is rather generic, and it can be difficult to find an image to fill a specific niche. But, for most people, the pros of using stock images outweigh the cons by a long shot.
If you’ve decided stock photos might be right for you then here’s some good news—there are a lot of different providers for stock images and graphics online.
There are pros and cons to using stock photos. Click To Tweet
The bad news is, unless you’re familiar with all of them, it can be hard to decide what’s right for you. To make it a little easier here’s the low down on the good, bad, and ugly of my four most used sources for stock images:
This is a great source for stock photos and videos as well as illustrations and vector art. The images sourced through Deposit Photos tend to be vibrant, interesting and trendy, and are definitely not that outdated clipart you may have seen other places.
- Large library
- Trendy, interesting, and royalty-free illustrations, photos, and video
- Simple pricing that fits any budget
- Limited payment methods (only PayPal or Skrill)
- Credits expire after 1 year
- Simplistic search
Price: Deposit Photos actually offers you a few different options. You can either pay as you go by purchasing credits for about $1 a piece (images start at $.90) or you can sign up for a subscription. The subscription plans come in monthly or daily download options and you can decide how many you want for as little as $69/month for 5 image downloads a day.
A perfect go-to vendor for images that send a message, iStock is packed with photos of people in action, meaningful moments, and classic imagery. When you want to make people think, this is a good place to go to look for images.
- Video, audio, unique and powerful images
- Comprehensive search feature
- Credits never expire (as long as you use the account once a year)
- New ricing structure
Price: iStockphoto; like Deposit Photos, gives you the option of pay per download (credits) or subscription plans. Each credit is going to cost you about $12, but substantial savings start to add up as you buy in bulk. Each image costs at least 3 credits, but you can download at any size.
Or, you can try a subscription plan with two tiers, Essentials and Signature. Essentials, which doesn’t include “signature images” starts at $199 for a single month with 250 images or $166.58 a month for a year and up to 750 images per month. Signature gives you access to ALL their images (over 6-million) and starts at $499 for one month and 250 images or $333.25 a month for a year with up to 750 images a month.
My own use of iStock has gone down considerably since they changed their pricing structure, as it has gotten considerably more expensive. Now I only use them if I need that elusive, hard-to-find, special image.
A popular choice, Shutterstock is full of classic photos, clipart, and graphics. They offer photos, vector files illustrations, videos, icons, and audio. It’s a one-stop shop.
- Huge library/options for every project
- Simplified pricing
- Simplistic search feature
- Clunky navigation
Price: When pricing out Shutterstock, you know what you’re going to get. Instead of purchasing credits and hoping you don’t end up with extras or that you have enough, you can purchase a subscription or buy a “multi-image pack”.
Image packs start at 2 image downloads for $29 and go up to 25 images for $229. A professional subscription lets you get 25 images a day, every single day and you have the option of either one month for $249, three months at $229 per month, or a year at $199 per month.
Just like the name says, these images are free to download. However, they are not all royalty-free. You have to pay attention to each image and make sure there aren’t any special conditions that you might violate.
Also, it’s hit and miss on the actual quality and creativeness of the images. Some are very professional and others are amateurish. Lastly, be mindful of the paid options (advertising from iStock) that list at the top of the screen, you don’t want to waste your time on those if you’re just looking for a free image.
- Price (free!)
- Ease of use
- Decent library (considering it’s free)
- Simplistic search feature
- No vector or video
- Fine print/Not all images are royalty-free
Price: You can’t beat free, but you also get what you pay for
Now that you’ve got the nitty gritty on some of the best stock photo options out there; along with the less simple alternatives, there’s no excuse not to start rocking some professional looking images for your next project.
Whether you decided to try taking your own pictures, or purchase some stock credits – make sure you put the imagery aspect of your message to work, starting now.
Have you ever used stock images before? Do you have a favorite vendor I didn’t cover? Can you think of any pros or cons to add to the list?