I spend a lot of time discussing art and media with my clients. A topic of conversation that usually comes up is stock art and stock media. Stock photography alone makes an appearance in half of all ads with 9 out of 10 digital marketers using stock photos in their ads. Even so, I routinely get asked the same questions. Today, I’ve decided to share with you the answers to the most commonly asked questions I get about stock art and stock media!

What is Stock Art and Stock Media?

Stock art and Stock media is generic content of a theme that can be used in multiple – projects by many different companies. This media is typically created by professionals be it an artist, photographer, musician etc. They are meant to be used with a license or permission of use. Sometimes you can get that license for free and sometimes you have to pay for it.

What Can You NOT Use?

This is probably the top question I get asked. Here’s what you can’t use: Any media that belongs to other people. Often I find out that people will take media from an online search using a major search engine. I ask that you be extremely careful doing that. Any media you find on a search engine might be exclusively owned by a person or company, which means no one else can use it. I recommend that you always check to see who owns the content you’re interested in before you use it!

If you find a piece of content or media such as a photograph on a search engine that you simply must use and you don’t know where it came from ask the company where they got the photo from. If you find the perfect piece of media, but you can’t get it from a stock website, again figure out who owns the copyright and then contact them for permission to use the image. The worst they can say is no. Do not just use the image because using an image without legally obtaining a license or permission may result in legal action against you or your company. It’s not worth the risk.

Quick note: If there are people in the photo that you are asking about make sure you can also get a model release and a tattoo release for any visible tattoos.

What Can You Use?

You are allowed to use anything from a stock photo or stock media site where you have purchased or legally obtained a copy of the license. The license is your permission to use the content for the things that are allowed on the license. Every license is different and I recommend reading the license to see what is okay to do and what is not okay to do.

You can also use anything that is considered Public Domain. Public Domain means, in short, that the artwork belongs to the collective community at large. There is no one entity, person or corporation that controls the copyright of the artwork. Things generally enter the public domain either by the creator of the artwork, photo, etc. releasing their copyright or things enter public domain 120 years after their creation, 95 years after their publication, or 70 years after the death of the creator.

As of January 1, 2020 books, films, artworks, sheet music, and other concrete creative works—but unfortunately not audio recordings — that were created in 1924 were released into the public domain.

What is the difference between Rights Managed images and Royalty Free images

When comes to visual media like drawings and photos, there are two types of images you’ll see which are rights managed and royalty free.

Rights managed means you get a one-time use for the image, not ideal if you want to create a second advertisement with the same image, the best part of these is that you can also buy exclusive and become the only user of that image.

Royalty free allows you buy the license one time and use it again and again within the limits of the license.

Why You Sometimes Have to Pay For Stock Media!

You are paying for the license, which is the permission to use the photos, music or other media. It ultimately helps the content creator or artist provide for themselves.  Most paid sites typically have more selection and variety of media. A larger catalog of media can cut down on stress when you need a compelling piece of content quickly, which in the long run saves you time and money and makes the paid sites a worthwhile investment.

What is attribution and why do I have to do that?

Attribution is where you give credit to the original author of the media. It is similar to citing your sources when writing a report. Typically, unless something is in the public domain or submitted by “anonymous” you will have to attribute the artwork. This is to prevent unlicensed use for one and for two it shares where someone else might find the media if they want to use it. Lastly, it’s a great marketing tool for the creators of the content and lets them see who has been using their media and what they have been used for!


Where to Find it?

For most types of media there are a number of stock sites that are both free and paid. Another option, if you have the necessary skills you can create your own media. I frequently take my own photos to use in designs. If you have the time, you can find a wealth of knowledge on the internet in many subjects that can help you learn to create the type of media you want. For example, there are actually classes to teach you how to take photos on both a digital camera and with a smartphone camera. You can also contact content creators such as photographers and composers and ask to pay them for permission to use their media. Again, the worst they can say is no!

How do I choose a good stock photo?

I could probably write an entire blog on this one, but for a quick answer. Make sure you pick something that fits the tone and style of your brand and the text of the ad. Pick something that evokes an emotion or is captivating will get most attention.

Hope this helps you understand stock media a little better! If you’re feeling stressed out about creating your own graphics and you’re ready to see how graphic design can massively uplevel your impact and income, email me back & I’ll hook you up with a free 1:1 Branding & Design Strategy Session where we’ll chat about your business, your goals, and give you tips on how design can get you where you want to be.