Stock Photo: How Do Stock Images Work

stock photo feature image
stock photo feature image

Nowadays, every blogger has the same question, “How do stock images work?” If you also struggle with this question, this article is for you.

When it comes to digital marketing, content creators have a wide variety of tools available to increase traffic and drive conversions.

One powerful tool is stock images!

If you look closely, you will find these assets practically everywhere – in web pages, blog posts, and social media adverts. Compared to custom photographs, they are budget-friendly and time-saving resources. With the correct usage, stock pictures can make the content visually appealing in the most convenient manner.

Plus, they don’t affect your site’s ranking on the search results page. According to John Mueller of Google, “It doesn’t matter directly what image you use for web-search.

Having said that, let’s discuss how these images work. First, let’s understand what stock photos are.

What is a Stock Image

Stock images are pre-taken creatives. They are ready to use high-quality photos, illustrations, and icons. Created by professional photographers, the stock images are available in a variety of subjects. They are sold to various clients, under a license, usually for a fee. You are free to use them in various media formats, including personal blogs, corporate websites, ads, social media marketing, and other digital or printed campaigns.

But the question is: Can You Use Stock Photos for Free

Yes and no. There are things that you should keep in mind when using stock images.

Stock photos come with different licenses. Some agencies will allow you to use the images for free with no copyright issues. But for some pictures, you need first to find out their license rights and how you can use them.

What are the Common Licenses of Stock Photos

Following are the common kinds of licenses:

Public domain – Images in the public domain can be used for commercial or non-commercial. The collection comprises assets whose copyright has expired or never existed. It doesn’t matter if you give attribution to the author or not.

Royalty-free license: This is one of the most flexible and sought-out licenses. If you are an agency that plans to use the image a lot or use it for commercial purposes, then this is the license you are looking for.

However, it confuses many people who take it as a free resource. Royalty-FREE doesn’t mean it’s free to use, but you have to pay once for the license to get its rights. After purchasing, you can use the particular resource in an unlimited number of projects.

Rights-managed license: Rights-managed is an exclusive license that allows one-time commercial use.

Once you have purchased rights to use an image, it has to be within the guidelines set by the image’s creator. This can include many factors such as:

  • Image size/resolution.
  • The location to be used for the photograph.
  • Medium where the photo will be used.
  • Length of display time.
  • Copies required of the photo or the audience size, in the case of digital use.
  • Purpose or the industry where the photograph will be used.

If you wish to use the image for other usages, you will have to purchase it again. Due to the content of the license, this will cost you more than royalty-free.

Popular Platforms to Get Free Images

Not everyone has the budget to purchase stock images, so many websites offer photos for free. You can download and add them to your content without any copyright issues.

Following are some of the leading sites for free stock photos:

1. Unsplash


Unsplash provides high-resolution, beautiful images for free. They have an excellent resource for both commercial and non-commercial projects. A very detailed license guide is included with their photos, so you can understand the restrictions of using it.

2. Pexels


Pexels is another website with millions of photos, illustrations, videos, and music tracks you can download for free. Their popular categories include business, entertainment, lifestyle, and many more. The site is rated as extremely valuable by many marketers and advertising professionals.

3. Pixabay


Pixabay is another good source for getting free stock photos in HD. They offer more than a million images, videos, and vectors you can use for any type of project. The best feature of Pixabay is the user-friendly interface and ease of searching.

The only downside of using free stock images is the lack of exclusivity. Since you don’t own the rights to the source image, anyone with access can download the same material. This often leads to having the same image as the competitor. To avoid this issue, many businesses opt to purchase pictures from one of the premium stock image agencies mentioned below.

Best Platforms to Purchase Stock Photos?

Here are some examples of websites that offer high-quality stock images for a price. Their rates depend on the photo and the exclusivity of the license. However, you have the freedom to use the pictures for most projects.

1. iStock


iStock is one of the most popular paid stock photo websites. They host millions of photos, illustrations, videos, and music tracks. Their license allows users to utilize the assets in personal and commercial projects. However, you are prohibited from using the same picture in logos, trademarks, or adult-related niches.

iStock is an excellent resource for marketers to instantly add visuals to their blog posts, social media posts, and eBooks. All you have to do is search for what you need, preview the results, and download the purchased images.

2. Shutterstock


Shutterstock is another rich resource for getting high-quality images for personal and commercial use. They also have millions of stock photos, vectors, illustrations, videos, and music tracks.

You can explore the library or search for a particular content based on your needs and budget. Their license is also flexible and allows the user’s creative freedom.

3. Adobe Stock


Adobe Stock has been around for a long time now and offers all types of images, vectors, and videos for purchase. They are one of the most popular stock photo websites for their diverse collection.

The resources by Adobe Stock can be accessed through its website. It is also integrated within the Adobe Creative Cloud platforms, making it easy for creative professionals to use alongside Photoshop and Illustrator.


To conclude, stock photos are a great marketing resource for professionals looking to add visuals conveniently. Whether you use a free stock photo website or purchase from a premium agency, they are a cost-effective solution for everyone. Plus, with so many categories available, you can utilize the pictures for almost any project. They are a high-quality resource and mimic the same standards as professionals. Just ensure that you read the licensing details carefully and use them lawfully. Good luck!


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