Stock Photography, Royalty Free or Exclusive
Acquiring stock photography images can be costly; however, the cost is often worth it. Nevertheless, when do you pay for exclusive rights to an image, and when is it just not worth it? Images can be purchased with different license types, either royalty free, rights managed or protected or exclusive rights.
All stock photography services offer different types of licenses and these licenses are all different from each other-you can even negotiate some licenses. Before purchasing a royalty free image, read through the licensing policy to make sure that their license applies to how you intend to use the image. For 'exclusive rights' or 'rights managed' images, you may have to relate to them the exact intended use before they quote a price.
Royalty Free (RF)
Royalty free images are usually the least expensive choice ranging from as low as $1 to $450/ea. Many stock providers offer a subscription program for RF images that support multiple downloads for $20 to $600 per month. Although RF images are inexpensive to purchase, they do not offer any protected licensing, which means that an unlimited number of that image may be sold to others and used for a variety of applications. Keep in mind it is the buyer's responsibility to check for model releases before using an image. Usually RF images only have to be purchased once to be used multiple times in multiple projects.
Even though RF images do not carry exclusive rights, they are still a wise and budget-friendly choice for many applications. If you need an isolated object image, RF is an excellent choice. Some agencies even offer pre-masked images you can buy for a dollar or two. Object images are usually not the focus of an ad campaign, a picture of a lollipop or a stapler are literally a dime a dozen and there is no need to spend a lot of money on such an image if it is not the center of your project.
Secondary webpages or short-term ads can use RF images. For example, during the holiday season, an image of a wreath or a group of friends celebrating can be purchased for nearly nothing, they add a little spice and timeliness to your projects, yet are still usually not the main focus.
Background images, landscapes or other flora or fauna photos are not usually specific enough to warrant an exclusive license, unless you are using it for an application that requires a license such a greeting card, calendar and so on. For example, a picture of sunset may be used to evoke a mood, yet that mood is related to previous experiences, not that specific image.
Rights Managed or Protected
Rights managed or protected licenses will usually allow you to use a photo for a specific use for a specific amount of time; the stock agency will ask you where you intend to use the image and the duration. However, generally they are not exclusive rights. Some services offer different agreements depending on whether the image is for commercial or editorial use. These types of licenses may start at under $200 for a small image, but for something like a calendar or home page, use may reach $1000.
This is a good choice for home page, magazine or medium to high exposure use. Typically, rights protected images can only be used for one specific application so there are fewer chances that another company will spread the image all over its pages at the same time that you do.
Sometimes these types of licensing will support template use, greeting cards, calendars or posters and so on, but be sure to read or negotiate the terms before you use the image.
'Exclusive rights' restricts others from purchasing the same image. This is necessary if you need an image that is going to represent your brand, logo or for high exposure use, like the front page of your magazine. Images purchased for a large campaign should be exclusive; you do not want to chance that the ad agency across town chooses the same image for its next billboard.
If you hire an assignment photographer or commission work, you will also want to negotiate exclusive rights. Exclusive rights should be secured for book covers, CD jackets and so on.
Exclusive Rights can get costly, but for the rights and protection, they are well worth it.
Overall, make sure that you read over all the terms that a stock agency sets to protect yourself and your image. Diversity is key, you may use a subscription program for isolated images and low exposure RF stills, another for right protected images and another for commissioned work or editorials. Working with several agencies may, in the end, save your time and budget.
Pamela Stevens writes for TopTenREVIEWS.com, a review site that publishes unbaised reviews on a wide range of subjects, including software, online services, hardware, movies and actors.