Low and No Cost Stock Photography

Professional photographers don’t like the growing trend of low and no cost stock photography available on the Internet, although this is really just a continuation of the mid-90’s move to relatively inexpensive royalty free stock photography offered in CD collections.

See, photographers who offered their works either on contract photo shoots or through rights managed sources used to see their photos being valued in the thousands of dollars; with low (often just a few dollars for print-quality files) and no cost options available, those rights managed pictures don’t look so attractive. I’m sympathetic to the plight of the photographer, but when a client asks me to source a photo and isn’t comfortable with the rights management limitations and high costs, I’m going to do what I can to make them happy. More often than not that means first perusing a handful of sites to see if there is a good quality image available cheap.

So, if you are looking for images to use in your own projects (whether it’s for your site or for press), these are a few places to look for images that might fit your needs.

The danger, of course, is that you might see “your” photo on someone else’s ad or Web site. The $1100 rights managed image I used on a recent media kit isn’t something I’m likely to run into again any time in the near future. Like every choice a designer makes, there is a balance between the key points of affordability, quality, and uniqueness. For my smaller clients, of course, it’s always affordability that takes top honors.

A few times, I’ve had people send emails asking where they can get low or no cost images, though, and this is my answer. All of these sites have been useful to me at one time; I’m betting that all of them will come in handy again in the future. Your mileage may vary.