How do stock art suppliers price their work

Posted on November 7th, 2016 | Tags: Design, Graphic Formats, Photo

So you’ve decided to do a new flyer or book and want to take it to the next level by adding some professional quality photographic images or clip art. However when when you log on to a commercial stock supplier, like Dreamstime, istockphoto, Fotoila, or 123rf, you get all these different sizes and prices for the same images and different usage options. You will even see the same image charged at different rates on different suppliers. So you might be wondering how do they work out these prices and what can you do to get the best price.

The  first thing to understand is when you buy clip art, you don’t own it, you are simply purchasing a usage licence. That is what you get when you pay your money, the right to use it but only in certain conditions. For instance, most suppliers place a limit on the number of times that image can be ‘impressed’ or printed. It might also limit the size allowed for use on a website, or for how long it can appear on a video and what regions it can be broadcast in.  Now for the average small business, you generally don’t have to worry about it as it’s very unlikely they are going to send the lawyers after you if you break the rules slightly, but it does affect the price for what you chose to use and the options you pick. They may also apply different impression limits depending on if you are ‘reselling’ the artwork as in a book or on a coffee mug instead of it being part of advertising. Unless that is your business then again you don’t have to worry about it.

As for the charging of different prices for an image at different sizes, personally I don’t know why they do it but I can take a guess. The larger the image the more uses it can be put to so the more they have to get back on their investment. They can afford to charge a single ‘credit’ for a small web image because they know that something of that small size and low detail is only good in that single use. Were as a print quality image the size of A3 can be used for every type of print and digital work so one someone buys it at that size, so they charge for the lost potential revenues.

So how can you get the best value for your money when looking for stock images?

  • Shop around
    The people who create the art will licence them to many stock stock suppliers. As each  suppliers charge different rates, you could find the same image you like at a better price with someone else.
  • Try different terms when looking for stock art
    Surprisingly enough a slightly different term when searching a stock art supplier will bring up different images of the same general theme. As many suppliers charge different rates for different artist you may find an alternative that is cheaper to buy than the one you first chose.
  • Always go for print quality artwork
    As mentioned above, the lower quality / cheaper stock images can be used in fewer situations. We’ve found it’s smarter to buy at least the cheapest of the print quality images (300dpi) so you can use in most print jobs up to A4 in size. If need for online work, it takes on a couple of clicks through most graphic software to scale it to the right size.
  • Look in the free art selection
    All the commercial stock suppliers have a free section. Images given away at no charge for personal or low volume use. If you are just looking for some throw away images, and as long as you not using for onsale (like tee shirts) then you can get a fairly good images for no cost at all.
  • There’s always public domain and creative commons
    There’s a large number of very creative people give their work away for free under creative commons, copy left, or public domain. If you are looking for some art to spice up the background of a flyer or to put in a facebook post, these are a great solution. There are a couple of things to remember before you use them. Firstly look at what the licence attached to the image says, the may forbid the use in a commercial context or require you put an acknowledgment of the source wherever you might be using it. Secondly the quality can be a bit variable as the people who do this range from professional down to home hobbyists starting out. However it can be still a great way of getting images to use.
  • Go through Copy Express
    One of the thing you will notice is that most art suppliers require you to by so many credits to buy their stock much like pre-paid minutes on a cellphone. You will also find that the more credits you buy the cheaper it gets. Now that’s fine if you are planning to buy a lot of stock art, but what if you only want to buy 2 or 3 things for maybe 40 or 50 credits and they expect you to buy at least 100 of them. We at Copy Express have accounts with several stock suppliers and buy credits in bulk to get better rates. We can give you the names of the companies we deal with and you can find the art you want, give us the image codes and we buy it on your behalf. Our Web 2 Print system has a stock image library built in that you can make use of when creating your material which makes things even simpler.

So here’s been a basic introduction to the reason why stock art costs they way it does and how you can get the best value for you money when you want to use. As always if you get stuck or need advice to really maximise your value from your purchases then talk to us here at Copy Express.