Stock Photos: Where to get them?

Picture Power

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It's no secret beautiful pictures can improve the impact of your slides, but a lot of people don’t know where to find them.

Clip Art looks like it still belongs in the early-1990s, and Google’s Image Search rarely yields the high quality images we're looking for. Not to mention, there are legal issues with reusing copyrighted images found in the random tubes of the internet.

If you’ve never heard the term, “Stock Photography” refers to photos that are not taken for a specific client, but instead are made available for use by any client for any purpose. “Royalty Free”, a phrase you’ll often hear around stock photos, just means the image can be used an unlimited amount of times in certain media without paying royalties to the photographer.

Historically, stock photo catalogs were only available to professional media and design firms. The images were priced out of reach of ordinary people.

Fortunately, the internet has leveled this playing field and in the past few years several stock photo resources have sprouted up aimed at both professionals and consumers alike.

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Where to get ‘em?

By popular request, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite places to get good quality stock photos. (Note: When I use the word “quality” in this context, I’m referring to both the resolution and the overall attractiveness of the images.)

stock.xchng - (Free - Mixed Quality) When budget is an issue but you want good quality images, this is the place to go. Stock.xchng is, by far, the best free stock photo resource I know of. Their image tagging could be better, but on the whole their search tool works very well. Not all the images in their library are spectacular, but there are enough gems mixed in to make searching around worthwhile. There is also a for-pay sister version of the site (stock.xpert), which boasts higher quality photos (as well as illustrations) for very reasonable prices (about $1-$10 per image).

iStockphoto - (Inexpensive - High Quality) Out of all the stock photo resources on the web, this one is my favorite. iStockphoto has a gigantic library of photos to choose from (their library also includes illustrations and videos). The site enforces strict guidelines for the quality of images that can be submitted, so most of images come from professional photographers and designers. The entire library is very well tagged, so when you perform a search you almost always get the results you want on the first try. While the images aren’t free, they are very reasonably priced (about $1-$10 per picture). It’s a small price to pay for the impact and professionalism such high quality images will add to your presentation. Definitely check this one out.

Getty Images - (Expensive, Best Quality) Getty is the top dog when it comes to stock photography. It may be expensive, but when you have the budget or just need that one perfect picture, there’s no better place to go. Getty is the image resource for countless top-notch media and design firms around the world.

Of course, there are many more stock photo resources out there. These are just a few of my favorites that you may also find useful when making your next presentation. If you have a favorite photo resource I did not mention, go ahead and leave a note about it in the comments.