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Why pay for a stock photo when you can get them free? The difference between free and paid stock photos. When to choose which one?

Are stock photos free? | WahaviBlog about stock photography

    Why pay for a stock photo when you can get them free? The difference between free and paid stock photos. When to choose which one?

    Differences between free and paid stock photos

    If customers have free access to stock photos, what stock photographers make a living from?

    First, we should clarify our concepts. Stock photos are images kept in stock by certain companies / agencies in their portfolios to help their clients choose the most appropriate ones for their projects. Stock photographers do not photograph to order, but try to figure out customer needs and continuously increase their "stock".

    If a customer buys an image, they can only really own the right to use the image, the image itself will still be available to other buyers. Different terms of use may be set by the agency, based on which the buyer will get the image at different prices.

    This is how the stock photography business started back in the 1970s. However, in the age of online galleries, there are companies that provide stock photos for free. If this phenomenon has good or bad impact on the statistics of the paid stock photo business, I cannot tell. Different opinions exist.

    You can read pros and cons of free stock photography in this article.

    The owners of the images uploaded to the free sites therefore do not make a living from the revenue they receive for the photos, but from donations (buy me a coffee). Or they just use the free service to become known to the community and start their career as a photographer - with no hope of earning any money.

    Why pay for a photo when you can get it for free?

    If you have ever sold your own products or services yourself, you know that you can expect compensation for your work. A photographer works hard for each of his/her photos (travels, selects, does post-processing, keywords, uploads).

    Of course, there are photographers who initially give away their work for free in the hope of later fame. There is no problem with this as long as the chances of photographers expecting income for their work are reduced.

    When to choose free and when to pay for stock photos?

    If you regularly use photos for your products (newspaper article, calendar, book cover, website, blog, etc.), take a look at the paid stock photo websites offering hundreds of millions of stock photos growing by the millions every week. You are sure to find photos you like. Sort the photos by submission date (most recent), so chances are you can choose from images that have not been used or have been used by very few customers.

    However, if you only need one or two pictures, I also recommend you starting with free stock photo sites. The amount of free stock photos is much less than the paid ones, and the supply on a given topic is significantly smaller.


    There are free stock photo collections, but their diversity is significantly lower than the paid ones. So you still have to pay for stock photos today if you want to use images that relatively rarely appear in online publications, websites, and other product illustrations.

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    Post Author

    Viktor Wallon-Hárs (wahavi)

    Photography has always been part of our family life. I have memories of my father dealing with those old glass slides, preparing them for our projector.

    Later I took photos during summer holidays and school trips.

    Now, in the era of stock photography, I dug myself into it to learn the basics and also the secrets how to earn more and more money doing what I love.