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Free vs Paid Stock Photography Images & Videos, Truth Untold.

It is scientifically proven that a picture SPEAKS A THOUSAND WORDS. That’s an undeniable factor for content creation on the internet in today’s world. That’s because most INFORMATION displayed on search engine giants like Google is mostly made up of text, graphics and videos.

Stock images, vectors, info-graphics & stock videos play an important role in today’s content marketing strategy / should I say it represents most of the vital information that’s found on the internet.

Apart from that, most blogs / websites rely HEAVILY on professionally made images and videos to deliver a brand / company’s message via blog post / other form of mediums.

That being said, a reliable source for stock images and videos is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT while producing content on a website. Not to forget that, the service provider has to stay updated as regards to the “creative commons license” and “royalty-free license” in order to get our website FREE FROM UNNECESSARY CIRCUMSTANCES.

That’s why picking stock image and portals that provides “royalty-free media” is a crucial factor for the long run content creation and marketing strategy. I believe there isn’t any webmaster in the entire world wish to get their website / blog into trouble while loading content into it.

Webmasters can end up tripping over their feet when it comes to stock photography. The internet has become an endless archive of FREE AND PAID marketing resources. It’s really up to us to make the decision to save come cash or make an investment in paid stock media.

Let’s start with the obvious difference between the both…

Pricing Wise

Okay so you must be wondering, why do I have to PAY for stock images when I can actually get it from FREE at stock photo platforms like Unsplash, Pixabay, Pexels, etc.

These are 3 of the most popular FREE stock photos and videos portal that I’m using once in a while, while I’m producing content on my site.

First of, these FREE IMAGES that we’re using doesn’t protect us entirely about the license and royalty issues. Therefore, there’s still some chance that our content might be SUED if you use it for commercial purposes.

Commercial purposes can include sponsored / non-sponsored blog posts publish on our blog / website. Commercial blog posts are categorized as blog posts that’s related to commercial uses, say a blogger / affiliate marketer that’s depicting a brand / company for their products & services.

Therefore, we have to use it AT OUR OWN RISK!

Of course, paid media can be kind of pricey sometimes. We’re talking about images that might cost about couple hundred of dollars. It might sound crazy to most bloggers / web content creator. Why the heck do I have to pay that much of money when I can “get” it for free.

That’s of course if we want to get access to EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS that’s available within these stock media agencies like Depositphotos, iStock, Shutterstock.

Free vs Paid Stock Media: Which One Should We Pick?

Before jumping into conclusion, we should know the fact that these stock media agencies understand that everyone has different needs and different budgets while producing content.

In fact, we could purchase paid stock resources from stock media agencies like Depositphotos, Shutterstock, iStock starting from 1 to 10 US dollars (some agencies like iStock provide pricing in local currency) and media that’s advertised on these portals are royalty-free too.

I seriously think it’s worth investing our money into these reputable stock media agencies. Paid images are usually license-issue free and resolution-restriction free.

Rights and Permissions

Let us make it super clear: If we didn’t create or photograph an image ourselves, we do not own the rights to use that image.

I think this is pretty simple to understand for most people. Or in layman terms, we are subjected to getting ordered to take down by the creators of the media if they’re not happy with their media being used on a certain site / blog.

Whether a stock image service is free or paid, always make sure we know, first and foremost, what is the usage rights for the photos that we want. Otherwise, we’ll end up “paying more” in the long run.

Free Stock Media Portals

Free images vary widely in the rights and permissions they are bound by. A few websites, like Unsplash are Creative Commons 0 (CC0), making them 100 percent no-strings-attached. It’s wonderful, but know that this is not the normal practice for all of these free stock media sites.

For instance, Death to the Stock Photo, provides free photo packs to subscribers on a monthly basis, but they do have a few rules for anyone wants to use their resources. Their license explains that you cannot redistribute or claim photos as your own, among other details.

Meanwhile, websites that curate user-uploaded creative commons images, like Flickr, can be a dangerous landscape for businesses to navigate. Don’t simply trust that a Creative Commons label means an image is safe for us to use.

Too often, bloggers and businesses end up in trouble for using a free image they BELIEVED THEY HAD LICENSE TO USE, when it actually had been uploaded by a user who had taken it from ANOTHER SOURCE WITHOUT PERMISSION.

If we’re truly in love with an image we’ve found online, do some searching to make sure we are, without a doubt, allowed to use that stock image / video the way we plan to do.

Paid Stock Media Hubs

If we are paying for our images, licensing ends up coming down to Royalty-Free (RF) or Rights Managed (RM). There are other variations, such as extended and multi-use licenses, but these options simply build upon a base RF or RM license.

RF licenses mean that we get to pay once to use the same content over and over again – so long as you keep an eye on any restrictions around production numbers. RM licenses, on the other hand, are purchased for ONE SPECIFIC PURPOSE. If we need the image for another project, we’ll
have to buy it again.

This makes RF sound like a much better deal, but it all depends on what our needs are. If we’re looking to redefine our brand and stick out from our rivals, an RM image can offer us with more unique and exclusive images for our next big campaign.

Another thing to note is editorial vs commercial images. Editorial images are of specific people, places or events are most often used in news articles.

Since our website and marketing materials all have the ultimate purpose of selling our brand and services (unless you’re blogging as your hobby), otherwise we will need to rely on commercial images and stay away from editorial.

And yes, blog posts can fall under the editorial category, but you’re safer going with commercial photography if we tend to write posts that appear to sell and promote our services or product.

Plus, if we purchase an image with RF license, then we’ll have more flexibility to use an image in
a blog post
as well as a CTA or other content piece.

Overall, it’s always a good idea to double check the sources of our images to make sure we can use those images the way we intend.

Media Quality Between The Both

Is there a quality difference between paid and free stock medias? It depends on the skill of the photographers / Videographer, both in shooting and editing those medias, and it depends on our needs.

In terms of style and variation, many of the free photos I see tend to be vibrant and able to portray the message of the photo / video. They aren’t pristine photos of people trying to pose randomly in front of the camera lens.

I’ve seen some really incredible paid stock media by Depositphotos.

Paid stock photo sites offer greater variety in their selection, though, so we’re more likely to find the right image for our project. And depending on the websites we use as stock resource, we can begin to
become familiar with the photographers / Videographers whose style aligns with our brand.

Here are some stock image examples by Depositphotos;

A city from the future

Aerial view of dramatic Haifoss waterfall in Iceland

Alexanderplatz square in Berlin, Germany

Beautiful Northern Lights photographed in Iceland in February

Holding the moon in her hands

Overcrowded residential building in Hong Kong

Photographer taking photo of famous grass hills near Stokksnes mountains, Iceland

Tokyo(Japan) - Shibuya City street crossing

And here are some stock video collections by Depositphotos;

The stock image and video footage available on the Depositphotos vault is absolutely mesmerizing!

Size And Resolution For The Images And Vectors

Often, free images will only come in one size, which may limit how we can use it, depending on our needs.

That being said, the images that we could find on free stock photo websites tend to be fairly large, around 3,000 pixels high or wide, which is enough for most digital projects – and some smaller print work.

Paid stock photography sites offer a much greater variety of sizes for purchased images. Every website has their own way of providing these images, so keep in mind that we may have to pay a certain amount to get the larger, higher resolution graphic compared to the 300 pixel ones we need for our new blog post.

Some sites only offer photos via subscription like Shutterstock and iStock, rather than paying per photo. Assess your own photography needs and determine what kind of plan works for you before purchasing your photos.

My 2 cents advice!

Media Options Available Within Free & Paid Vaults

Free or not, searching for the right stock photo can be a major headache. We always hope that we could search the “best photo” that suits our message to our blog / site visitors.

Resources like Stokpic can be free and easy to search and browse through, but often it’s much
more difficult to find the image that we were envisioning. It’s tough when we have a specific image in mind, but our resources are limited by the availability and lack of choices.


Freebies are great, but when it comes down to it, your business needs a resource that offer
photos, vectors, audio and video, all in one place, all under the same licenses and prices.

Many paid stock resources not only supply photos, but many of these portals often offer what we may want to utilize in our marketing campaigns. Having all our resources in one key place will allow our collaborators / contributors save time finding the “perfect graphics” and additions for their content.

Stock Media Organization

One feature that might helpful is simply being able to find the images that we’ve already
purchased. Yet, as far as this goes, I can say that paid stock sites barely do any better than free.

However, Depositphotos has done a good job for its users by designing a user interface that’s intuitive to use. We’ll just have to get ourselves an account in order to start using its features.

Having all of our downloads saved to one place allows us to look back through your history and find images we’ve already used and have rights to.

That being said, free stock media sites like Unsplash, Pexels, Pixabay portal owners might not be as good as Depositphotos in terms of organizing the files that we’ve bought (downloaded) via the portal.

Depositphotos downloaded files tab

Depositphotos favourite folders tab

The reason why I like Depositphotos as compared to the other paid stock media agencies is due to the pricing of its products as compared to other paid stock agencies. Apart from that, the company has also developed a DIY graphic design tool (for non-graphic designers) that is comparable to Canva, the name of the tool is Crello.

I couldn’t tell you how much I’m loving Crello since the day I started using it. It is a great and intuitive DIY graphics design tool for serious bloggers and internet marketers.

On the other hand, paid stock sites take advantage of heavily tagging their photos to make them more searchable.

Oh yeah, and another intuitive DIY web-based graphics design editing tool worth mentioning would be DesignWizard.

Discovered it recently while I was searching for some highly intuitive web-based graphics editor tools for non-designers. Although the “brand” is not that established yet in the market like Canva / Crello.

But I believe, no one will resist in having an ADDITIONAL HANDY TOOL in their INVENTORY LIST when in need. And the best part is that it’s absolutely FREE OF CHARGE!

Great news for small to medium business / enterprises owners who’s always looking for ways to reduce their operational cost while maximizing their profit!

Make a Choice and Stick to It

In the end, businesses are much better off paying for their stock media. Yes, it doesn’t sound as good as “free”, but it saves time and headaches down the road.

This doesn’t mean free resources need to be completely cut out, but it means we need to know, without a doubt, how and when you can use those photos, and to make sure that information is clear to our blog post contributors as well. Don’t let stock photography become a hurdle for your business.

Becoming comfortable with one or two paid stock resources allows you to know their licenses and
like the back of your hand, and to be confident in how and when you use your purchased media. It’s well worth the investment now to not have to worry about license disputes and trouble down the road.

If you’re using a paid stock photo resource already, do you go Royalty Free or Rights Managed?

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  1. Stefan November 20, 2018
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