Ask the coach: Stock photos and design costs

Ask the Coach, Beth Mende Conny, your writing questions

Q: Should I use stock photos to save on design costs?

A: Stock photos are those that can be licensed for specific uses, such as on book covers, websites, and in magazines and brochures. Terms of use, like licensing costs, vary. You can spend pennies to hundreds of dollars or more for a single image, group of images or a subscription to stock photo companies, for limited/unlimited use, and for commercial/non-commercial use. Sometimes, you can buy the image outright.

There are hundreds of sites where you can get stock photos. Here are just two of the better known:

Getty Images

If a designer uses stock photos, the cost in most cases is charged to you, unless he or she already owns, or has the license to, the image. Accordingly, stock photos aren’t necessarily a way to cut corners. (Some designers use stock photos as the base from which they create Photoshop designs.

Some stock photos are truly creative, unique and vibrant. Others, well, look like stock photos: a bit stiff and contrived. And some are overused.

For example, when I redesigned the cover of my book Fearless Creativity (2016 release), several designers used stock images I recognized from other book covers and websites. Not wanting my book to look cliché, I ultimately chose a designer who worked from scratch.

Given the high resolution of today’s smartphones and tablets, you may be able to use your own photographs. Another option: Use photographs or images available through Creative Commons (CC).

CC allows individuals, organizations, government agencies, etc., to make their photos (and other materials, including illustrations, videos, etc.) available to everyone, although sometimes with restrictions. For example, some materials must have attribution and/or a link to the creator’s website; others can’t be altered or used for commercial purposes; etc. The Library of Congress, Flickr,Wikimedia Commons and many others offer CC photos.

Have a question? Drop me a line.

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