How Do Stock Photos Become Stock Photos? 



It’s a genre of photography that’s got itself a bad rap the last few years – and easy to see why. Stock images really can be the laughing stock on occasion. If you’ve ever marveled at why an immaculately made-up woman thinks a bowl of salad is the funniest thing since Monty Python or the reason all those hip and trendy youths in an open-plan office think that pointing at a computer screen and grinning counts as hard work, you’ll understand why. Nothing’s that funny.

However, if you have wondered how a stock photo ends up as a stock photo – that’s easy to explain. Read on to find out how it happens. Stock imagery isn’t all that bad! Finding quality stock photos that aren’t cheesier than a bowl of Cheetos is quite easy when you know how. Also, quality images like this can be handy for brands and companies that need good photos but are operating on a budget. It’s how you use them in your work that matters. So what are stock photos?

Simply, they’re generic pictures, illustrations, or even graphics and they’ve just been created with no real intent in mind. Sometimes a moment is just captured – other times a scene is set up and an image taken which can look fairly representative of several different situations.

How Does A Stock Image Become A Stock Image?

How Does A Stock Image Become A Stock Image?

How a picture becomes a stock image, is that once it’s taken, it gets licensed. This costs money, but once it’s done a company or organization has the rights to it and it can be used by other people (also for a fee) in any way they choose – more often than not they’re used on websites, blogs posts, marketing materials or even magazines and books. There are lots of different stock image platforms out there. Some of them will have specialties, or focus on bringing very high-quality images to the market, and some are more general. There are well-known free sites and other sites that charge a small fee for image use.

What’s A Stock Image License?

Stock Image License

Stock images have a few different license types. A couple of these have allowances for commercial usage and modification or editing. However, typically there are three types that most people will have to know about:

Royalty-free: This is the easiest of all. The person downloading can use the image free (but that means everyone else can too) Think about sites like Wikimedia Commons, that show public domain content. Often though, you’ll still need to use proper attribution, which is only fair.

Rights managed: These are images that require you to pay a fee to use, and they have different kinds of licenses depending on what they’re being used for, so you’d have to be careful to check every time you purchase an image, what its rules are.

Extended or enhanced: These are images that come with additional uses – so, for instance, they could be used on commercial products like personalized, printed sweaters, mugs, or accessories.

Do stock Images work?  

Do stock Images work?  

Yes, they do and it’s hard to see why people can be sniffy about them. A stock image used in the right way can be super effective at communicating a message or adding some good quality visuals to an otherwise boring piece of content.

However, they work best when they don’t appear to be stock images – that is to say if they look like they’ve been composed naturally. There was an interesting experiment carried out several years ago, by a team from Marketing Experiments, who wanted to test how poorer quality stock images worked against images of humans with names and captions. They found that there was a 35% increase in conversions from people who viewed the named, captioned image than there was from a generic stock picture.

This means that if a stock image is going to be used, it’s got to be done seamlessly and often with modifications and edits to make them look more realistic.

Advantages Of Stock Images

Advantages Of Stock Images

The main advantage of using a stock image over a professional, custom photo is firstly the price. They’re very often either completely free to use (with the correct attribution) or for a small fee and attribution. They’re also very easy to use – all you’ll need to do is download and save. You can use simple editing tools to make them more of a custom fit for your purposes, and again, so long as they’re correctly attributed there are no issues.

Custom photos, on the other hand, by professional photographers – whilst great, can often cost a lot of money, require real models (who’ll also need a fee), and a lot of scheduling. Stock images get you the best of both worlds, so long as you’re careful about where you take images from and how you edit them. Use them the right way and your content will sing.


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With an adept skill of curating content on multiple genres, Mony has harnessed success as a Content Writer quickly. Find her sharing her profound thoughts and opinions on social media, lifestyle, beauty, and social business.

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