Stock Photography for Web Developers: Part 2 | WebReference

Stock Photography for Web Developers: Part 2

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Stock Photography for Web Developers: Part 2

By Nathan Segal

This week we're going to look at the different types of stock photography and what licenses are available. Generally, the most common terms that people are familiar with are rights protected and royalty free imagery, though there are other options which we'll examine here.

Rights Protected vs. Royalty Free

Rights protected images are licensed for a specific period of time and for a specific application which is negotiated in advance. The reason one would use rights protected imagery is to prevent competitors from using the same image in the same marketplace. Only after the prescribed period has elapsed is the image free to be licensed for another application. Another option is purchasing complete exclusivity for a period of time where the image is licensed to only one client and no one else. In this case, the fee would be considerably higher as the image is taken out of circulation until that license has elapsed.

In contrast, royalty free stock photography gives the image buyer the option to use the image in as many ways as desired while only paying one fee.

Benefits and Disadvantages

Before deciding what type of imagery to use, consider your image requirements. If you intend to use images for multiple applications and your market is local rather than national (or international), royalty free imagery is likely to be your best option. Another factor is price. A royalty free CD-ROM can be obtained for as little as $30.00 or as high as $300.00 or more.

The advantages of using royalty free images is that they are often readily available and at a low price. A disadvantage is that you don't know who is using the same image.

The main disadvantage of buying rights protected imagery is the price, which is likely to be considerably higher than what you would pay for a royalty free CD. With royalty free the image quality might not be as good as with rights protected imagery, but this will be determined by where you purchase your images. Some agencies have higher standards than others.. The other issue is that you will wind up with a lot of images, many of which you'll never use.

In contrast, if you want to use the image for a corporate brand or a national/international campaign and you don't want your competitor(s) potentially using the same image, rights protected imagery is a better option. This will cost more but will give you more options as far as licensing is concerned. In the previous article I had mentioned that in some cases, companies would rather have their own images shot, rather than using stock images in an existing library. This offers exclusivity right away.

Royalty Free: Options

As the stock photography industry evolves, more options are available to the photo buyer. One of these is the concept of royalty free stock photography that you can purchase - one image at a time. This is one way of reducing costs and making life simpler for the photo buyer who doesn't want a CD-ROM full of images. Bear in mind that the rates will be different for each stock agency.

Another option is to purchase royalty free images by subscription, where you pay a monthly fee, then obtain the ability to download large quantities of images. Some agencies which offer this service are Comstock (part of the JupiterImages division), Imagegrabber and ShutterStock. As mentioned above, fees and file requirements will vary, so you’ll need to contact each agency to obtain their terms.

Royalty Free: A Caution

Another issue is the term: “royalty free.” Many people assume that this means that they can do whatever they want with the images, but in reality, there might be licensing restrictions or hidden costs. Before you buy, read the fine print.

Stock on Demand

Previous to the digital age, when an image was licensed to a client, duplicates (dupes) had to be photographed from the original transparency (or slide) and the resulting dupe sent off to the licensee. After the licensing period had expired, the dupes would need to be returned so they could be sent off for other assignments. In addition, images submitted by photographers were most often stored as transparencies in different film formats (such as 35mm, 6 x 7, 4 x 5 or 8 x 10), all of which takes up a lot of space. Another important issue was insurance if there was damage by fire or theft.

With the digital age things have changed. These days, film is not as necessary. Many agencies now prefer digital files since they take up a relatively small amount of space and they are easy to store and send. The modern use of images has given rise to the term "Stock on Demand," meaning that you can sort through images online, make a selection, pay for it and download it within hours or minutes, depending on the file size and the agency arrangements.

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Created: March 27, 2003
Revised: October 14, 2005