Stock photos and illustrations won’t solve all your graphic needs but there are a lot of uses for them in online learning. Unless you always shoot your own photos, the question is whether you should pay for stock photos and illustrations or use one of the free services. You can find a long list of both types on this Resource page—Stock Photo and Illustration Sites.
Although free stock photo websites create a lot of buzz, in the real world of creating online courses they can be frustrating. Free stock photos are great when you need images of scenic mountains or scanned photos of someone’s great grandmother.
However, I end up wasting a lot of time going through these sites looking for the right image. For busy designers with a reasonable budget and intense deadlines, I’ve found that purchasing stock photos and illustrations makes more sense. Here are 10 reasons why.
1. Time Savings
Good stock photo services will save you time, as you are much more likely to find what you need quickly. A savings in time translates into saving money.
2. Way More Choices
Premium stock photo services are a business, which means they need to have a wide selection of categories and image choices to stay afloat. Many of the higher end subscription services provide customers with access to multiple collections so you can search among millions of photos, making it more likely to find what you need.
3. Compelling Images
Although paid stock photo services always include some laughable images of people smiling at work, they also have lots of compelling images. You can find photos based on a concept, emotion or theme. You can find people doing interesting things and simple single objects that are ready to use.
4. Availability of Vector Art and Illustrations
Many of the subscription and credit-based sites offer vector art and illustrations. Illustrated graphics can give a course a completely unique look and feel. Vector art refers to graphics that are hand drawn in a tool like Adobe Illustrator. Because they exist as mathematical renderings, they can be expanded to any size and manipulated in a vector graphics program.
5. Clear Licensing Agreement
One hazard of being a designer is learning about copyright laws, restrictions and licenses. On the free photo sites, you have to read the fine print for each and every photo you use. Some photographs come with no restrictions, some are only for non-commercial use and some require the name of the photographer. You don’t have to deal with this headache on a reputable stock photo site. The licensing agreement will be the same for all photos in the license category you select, which is typically a standard royalty-free license. Yes you should read the fine print, but you only have to do it once.
6. Guaranteed Model Releases
You need the signed release of a model to use his or her photo. Model releases are guaranteed with a paid service. This is not true on a free site. That’s why I never use photographs of a person from a free service.
7. More Efficient Search
There’s nothing like typing in the search term ‘money’ and getting back photos of the Eiffel tower. This kind of poor search functionality is common on some free photo sites. On the other hand, efficient search functionality is one of the foundations of a paid service. Paid photo services have staff to tag their photos with keywords, so the results are usually more accurate. Some services even provide corresponding search terms with each photo, which can give you ideas for alternate keywords.
8. Lightbox Functionality
The additional functionality you can find on a for-pay photo site can help you stay organized and efficient. These sites will have a ‘Lightbox’ feature where you can store images you might like to download at a later date. You can typically create multiple lightboxes with unique names for different projects.
9. Supports The Arts
The world would only be shades of gray without the Arts. By paying for images, you’re helping photographers and illustrators earn a living. We need them.
10. Reduces Stress
When you can quickly find the graphics you like and need, it reduces your level of stress. And we all need that.
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