Buying cheap photos or use free images
When you need images for your project (blog, article, book, advertising…) you can use a wide range of sources to get the photos or illustrations you want. For very specific and exclusive images you can hire a professional photographer or try to produce them yourself. These images will be custom made and perfectly fitted for your project. When your photography skills are not up to it or hiring a photographer is not an option you can search the images you need on the internet. There is an amazing quantity of free and low budget images available online. Not all images on the internet can be used just like that. If you want to use an image you will have to own the right, ask permission to use it or you have to buy it.
Using free images seems to be the easiest option. Whether free images are the best choice for you is dependant on your budget, your available time and your intended use of the images. There are however quite some disadvantages when you want to use free images.
Free images can be a way to save money, but the low prices of microstock make it possible for almost every budget to buy the images you need. However when you have little or no budget, free photos can be your only option.
Time is money
One of the biggest problems when searching for an image is that you can spend far too much time to find that perfect image. Searching for low priced microstock images is quite fast and easy. All these images have proper keywords and through the microstock agency’s search engine you can find very specific images in no time. If you know what kind of images you need it will only take a couple of minutes and a few dollars to find what you want.
Most free images are not properly key-worded and it can be very hard and time consuming to find what you want. And time is money! If you can afford 60 minutes to find a free image it could be ok. But when you need multiple images you may end up searching for days before you find the images you really like.
Free photos can be found in a wide range of image quality, but overall quality will be significantly lower than for microstock images. All microstock images have passed a quality inspection; inferior images are refused and not represented in microstock catalogues. Quite some effort and time has been put in post-production and retouching to ensure high quality.
While most free images are only available in low resolutions, microstock images can be obtained in high resolution. Low resolutions can be ok for blogs or other web uses but most other uses require high-resolution images.
The fact that you can find an image on the internet doesn’t mean you can use it just like that. In order to use an image you have to own the copyright or you need permission to use it. Copyright protects the ownership of images and applies to all images. When using images you need to be careful; infringement of copyright can result in lawsuits and legal fees.
Copyright infringement occurs when:
-You use an image without permission
-You use part of the image without permission
-You use the image beyond the scope of this permission
Law not only protects images by copyright but also restricts the publication of people and property. Images with recognizable people or property and brands need additional model releases or property releases to be used for commercial purposes. Without these releases you can get into legal trouble with the person in the photo or the property owner.
By buying and using microstock images you avoid copyright infringement. Microstock images are the safest way to obtain low budget images. In microstock, images containing people or recognizable property will be accompanied with a model or property release.
Most free images lack the necessary property or model releases and by using them you risk legal issues.
Stealing online images can cause you problems. I myself regularly scan the internet for my images in use and quite frequently I find some of them that have been obtained in an illegal way. When I find such an image, I contact the microstock agencies and they will take legall action.
Safe free images source
The free image section of some microstock agencies is a safe source for free images. Just as regular stock images these have gone through an acceptance procedure and are accompanied with the necessary releases. Image quality of these free images is lower than for regular microstock images and still it can be quite difficult to find the images you want.
Where to buy low budget images
If you want to use high quality low budget images, microstock is the way to go. Prices depend on image size and on the amount of images you need. Subscription images can cost as low as 25cents whil credit based sales cost only a couple of dollars. Microstock agencies have many million images in their collection and you will easily find the images you need.
Here a list of some of the microstock agencies.
Istock has a reputation for high quality and they have a wide range of images only available through their site. Prices at Istock are among the highest in microstock. But thanks to their high quality they are able to attract many buyers.
Fotolia vast amount of high quality images relatively low price for images on credit and one of the best agencies if you need a vast amount of images. This is the agency where I tend to buy images whenever I need some.
Shutterstock the largest microstock agency, image quality high but a little lower than at Fotolia. Shutterstock sells their images mainly on a subscription based with prices comparable to Fotolia.
Dreamstime has a vast collection of high quality images for sale. Image prices are dependant on popularity, as new images or images without any downloads are cheapest. For certain images it is possible to buy the rights or RAW files.