Do you think the stock photos are too expensive? You might change your mind after reading this post.
Even though you might believe that the stock photography industry is at its early stages, there are companies who have been selling stock images since the 1920s (mostly started with reselling exclusive shots for magazines).
The companies specialized in selling stock photos have usually from several tens of thousands of images in their inventory, up to millions of graphics.
So how these websites get their photos in the first place?
Instead of having a massive team of hired photographers, these agencies just license the work of individual photographers (contributors) who want to sell their work to the large public.
It’s a win-win situation. The stock image selling websites have the demand and the exposure, while the photographers have the skills, equipment and the time to take awesome photos.
Some companies ask for exclusive rights for the photos, while others only require non-exclusive licensing rights, or give the photographer the option to choose one of these alternatives.
The exclusive-contributor license will usually pay the photographer a higher commission (royalty) every time when one of his images is sold, while the non-exclusive license will pay a smaller fee.
Even though some people think that $10 is too much to pay for an image, the stock photos are not as expensive as they used to be several years ago.
Also, the more photos you buy, the lower the price per photo will be. More volume, less money.
If you pay a monthly subscription, you can even get stock photos for less than a dollar.
Now, let’s get back to why are the stock photos considered to be expensive by some people.
1. Photography equipment is expensive
One of the reasons why the stock photo is expensive is because the professional photo equipment is costly.
- Canon 5D Mark II
- Canon 5D
- Nikon D700
- Nikon D80
- Canon 40D
Even though this data is pretty old, some of these cameras are still sold on Amazon at a price between $300 (used), up to $2000.
The prices of the newer camera models today usually start
In addition to the costs of the equipment, photographers often need to travel to different places, need to hire models, stylists, pay for photo editing and retouching, rent props, etc.
The perfect photo never come cheap.
2. Stock agencies pay low royalties
While the photography equipment is expensive, the stock photo agencies usually pay the photographer relatively small commissions when every photo is sold (usually up to 30% per non-exclusive licenses).
For example, Getty Images, one of the oldest agencies in the stock photo industry, is paying a starting rate of 15% for non-exclusive licenses and between 25% to 45% for exclusive photo licenses.
There are also many costs involved for the agencies. For instance, customer acquisition, affiliates, customer support, liabilities, etc.
The royalty model varies from one company to another and it depends on the company’s pricing model.
Usually, the photos with exclusive licensing rights will sell for a higher price than the photos licensed with a non-exclusive license. However, a more expensive image will have much fewer sales than a cheap one.
Even though the commissions might add up at the end of the month if the contributor has many photos and works with multiple agencies at the same time, most of the photographers claim that they cannot live only with the earnings from selling stock photography.
Hunter Bliss Photography shared his earnings as a stock photographer for several months of 2018. According to his video, he has earned between $527 and $986 per month.
The reality is that the competition between the photographers selling their work on stock photo selling websites has increased a lot during the last few years.
This is a good thing for the buyers, but not such a good for photographers.
For the buyers, more competition in the market means lower prices for the stock photos and more choices for the images.
For contributors, that results in lower royalties earned per image sale and harsher photo acceptance rules and requirements.
3. Not everyone can take a great photo
The third reason why I think some stock images are expensive is due to the time and effort a photographer puts in order to get the perfect photo.
This is, in fact, more of an argument why sometimes, the stock photos worth all the money, even if are expensive.
Let’s say you have a blog about celebrities and you want to write a post about Tom Hardy.
How in the world would you find a photo of Tom Hardy to legally use in your article?
Your options are:
- Take your camera, find Tom Hardy and take a picture of him.
- Just grab a random image you find on Google Images and use it as your own.
- Go to a website that offers free stock photos and search for a photo with Tom Hardy.
- Go to a stock photo website that has photos of Tom Hardy and
Now, let’s analyze each option.
A. Take your camera, find Tom Hardy and take a picture of him.
This would probably be the worst idea.
First, it would be almost impossible to find Tom Hardy.
Secondly, you would have to get Tom Hardy’s consent to take a photo of him and use it in your blog post.
B. Just grab a random image you find on Google Images and use it as your own.
This would be an idea just as bad as the first one (or even worse).
Because most of the images are copyrighted, especially the photos of celebrities.
If you simply copy and use images found with Google Images, you risk being sued by the photographer, or by the company that owns the copyrights of that photo.
Don’t even think that you would get away if you just delete the photo after receiving the copyrights infringement notice. Once they find you, there’s no way to run until you pay the settlement fee, or you go in court and end up paying even more.
And if you think you’ll get away with paying $100, you are so wrong.
If you don’t believe me, you can read Kari Dephillips story on how her company had to pay a $3000 (initially, the asked fee was $8000 ) settlement penalty after they’ve used a copyrighted image for one client.
C. Go to a website that offers free stock photos and search for a photo with Tom Hardy.
I would say that this is the best route so far. However, there’s a big issue with this approach. More exactly, there are NO photos of Tom Hardy on the largest websites that offer free stock photos.
Let’s try on Pixabay.
This might be our best bet since Pixabay claims to have over 1.6 million royalty free stock photos and videos.
Let’s see what our search query for “Tom Hardy” returned.
Just as I was expecting, I couldn’t find a single image of Tom Hardy on Pixabay.
Let’s give it one more try and try on Unsplash.
This time, there were 46 results for “Tom Hardy.” However, instead of seeing images with Tom Hardy, the results only contained images with succulent plants.
I don’t think I can use an image with a Cactus instead of Tom Hardy on my blog about celebrities, can I?
I think there is no point of trying to find photos of Tom Hardy on other free stock image websites since Pixabay and Unsplash are two of the most popular.
While these type of websites have a lot of pictures of nature, objects, people, and so on, it’s almost impossible to find photos with celebrities that you can use in your content.
Therefore, this is another dead end.
D. Go to a stock photo website that has photos of Tom Hardy and buy one.
Finally, we’ve reached our last option; the one of buying a photo of Tom Hardy from an agency that sells stock photos.
Unlike the free stock photos websites where we couldn’t find any photos, we can find a lot of photos of Tom Hardy on websites like Depositphotos, Dreamstime, or Shutterstock.
Great! I’ve found 331 awesome photos of Tom Hardy on Depositphotos.
Let’s also try on Dreamstime.
Again, I’ve found 253 of stock images and stock footage.
I now have a lot of options to choose from and I can finally write my article about Tom Hardy.
For some niches, it’s almost impossible to find free photos that you can use in your content without breaking any copyright laws.
That’s not only valid for celebrity blogs or news websites, but for many other niches.
Therefore, the best route is to go to the stock image websites and purchase the image you need.
The stock photos are not as expensive as several years ago.
The level of competition in this industry and the market opening to amateur photographers have led to a decrease in price over the years.
The next time you think a stock photo is too expensive, think about all the effort and the costs of the photographer that took that amazing photo.
If you want a list of websites where you can find cheap stock photos, check out this post.