Stock PhotographyWhen it comes to online content, pictures make all the difference. By adding images to your website, blog, articles, etc.. you are giving life to your work. Once you find royalty free stock images that can be added to your online content they can increase the overall appeal, keeping your viewers engaged and interested. Of course, your content is why they came to the site and it may be enough to keep them there but why chance it. Not only do images help to keep viewers engaged they also add a great overall design concept that can be very inviting and appealing, drawing your viewers to return. The question is where to find royalty free stock images for your online content.

Many publishers are unaware of the options available when it comes to finding royalty free stock images. This is especially true for new publishers. A great deal of time can be spent exploring your options in reference to obtaining pictures that will compliment your content. You could always use your own photographs but chances are you will not always have what you need in your photo library and eventually you will run out! Your best bet is to find royalty free stock images online. The problem here is usually deciding which site is best for you. It is quite important to understand all the elements of finding and purchasing royalty free stock images. In addition, there are many sites where you can find royalty free stock images free of charge. Before making your choice here are a few things you should know.

What Are Royalty Free Stock Images?
First and foremost "Royalty Free" is different than "Free", we will cover "free" shortly. Royalty free stock images are images that you purchase for a fee. Once purchased you download them right to your computer. You can then use the images for your own personal websites, blogs, articles, even business cards and brochures. The royalty free license gives you the rights to use the images for personal use. However, you must always read the terms. The images purchased can not be re-sold, re-distributed, or claimed as your own, there is a different license offered for this but it is extremely expensive.
The collections of royalty free stock images found online are made possible by photographers who submit their work to various stock photo sites. In return, photographers are usually paid a percentage of the download.

Stock Image SearchWhere to Find Great Royalty Free Stock Images
There are quite a few sites where publishers can find royalty free stock images online. Most require that you register with them for free. The process is usually simple, name, e-mail address, verify e-mail, etc.. There are a lot of great royalty free stock image sites to choose from. You should look into a few different sites and see which has the best plan for your needs as well as the best images for your needs. Here are a few great choices to get you started:

Dreamstime.com is a great place to start when trying to find royalty free stock images online. They have a large selection of stock photos, competitive prices, and high quality images. The site is very user friendly and they also offer a decent amount of free photos under their free image section.


istockphoto.com is a very popular stock photo site. They do have a great selection and wonderful images but they are a bit more pricey than Dreamstime. This site is also very user friendly, the higher prices are really the only downfall, everything else is great.


Fotolia.com is another great site to find royalty free stock images online. I'd say there prices are are competitive with Dreamstime. Fotolia also offers a free image section but it is currently quite small.

Other mentionable sites to find royalty free stock images include Shutter Stock Images, however, they require a credit card upon opening your account for address verification. Big Stock Photos who is actually owned by Shutter Stock and Fotosearch. Fotosearch has over 5.7 million photos! That's a lot of images to search, not great for a quick and easy find!

Dollar DownloadsUnderstanding the Purchase of Credits
Once you register on any of the above royalty free stock image sites you will be given the option of purchasing credits which are used toward image downloads. Most sites offer images starting at $1.00 some even less. However, there is a catch when it's comes to pricing so don't be shocked if you don't get the $1.00 deal.

With almost every site where you can find royalty free stock images you will have to purchase an "x" amount of credits up front. Most sites don't allow you to pay per single image, although that would be nice! Credits are offered in different denominations, the least is usually between 10 and 15. Here is where it gets a bit tricky. The images usually have levels. The levels differ by picture size. The higher the level (the bigger the picture) the more the credits it takes to purchase. So a level 1 picture is usually 1 credit, a level 2 would be 2 credits, etc.. However, sometimes you will find royalty free stock images that are not offered in the lower levels so you may have to use more credits to get the picture even if the size of the image is not important to you.

If you have the option of choosing a level, the small sizes are great for general use: websites, blogs, etc.. there is no need to upgrade to the next size if you don't need to!
Just remember credits = cash. Before choosing a royalty free stock image site you should compare how much they charge per credit. For example, in reference to the sites mentioned above this is currently their cost for the least amount of credits you can buy:

Fotolia: 10 credits for $10.00
Dreamstime: 12 credits for $14.99
istockphoto: 12 credits for $18.00

As you can see, it's quite a difference so make sure you compare royalty free stock photo sites before purchasing credits.

Subscriptions
Subscriptions are great if you want a large quantity of royalty free stock images for an extremely low price. Subscriptions tend to offer the best overall rate, yet you will pay more upfront. Subscriptions are great because there are no levels so you can download any image or size, the only restriction is the amount of images that you can download per day.
With subscriptions you pay for an "x" amount of downloads per day for "x" amount of months. So you could chose a one month subscription which allows you 10 downloads a day, or you can chose a 12 month plan with 50 downloads a day. There are a few different options in terms of length and downloads per day once again depending upon your needs. With subscriptions you can pay as low as .20 cents per image.

Buy More, Pay LessThe More You Buy The Less You Pay
In order to get the best price for royalty free stock images online you have to buy high amounts of credits or buy a subscription. Images cost less when you pay more. For example, you could buy 12 credits for $14.99 and pay as low as $1.25 per image or you could but 160 credits and pay as low as .91 cents per image (depending on desired size).The decision here is really how much you are willing to spend on royalty free stock images. Yes, you will save some money buying more credits but if you only need a few pictures your better off to just stick with what meets your needs when trying to find royalty free stock images online.

The same applies to subscriptions. If you buy a 3 month subscription with 50 downloads per day you will end up paying less per image than if you purchased a 1 month subscription with just 10 downloads a day.


Where to Find Royalty Free Stock Images for FREE
Yes, free! There are so many great sites where you can find royalty free stock images free of charge! Many online publishers are not even aware that this option is available when it comes to finding images online. Free stock image sites are just that, free! You don't pay for credits at all and you still can use the images for the same content, they are both free and royalty free!
How does this work? Well photographers submit their work and are either paid through add revenue, paypal donations, or simply just to get their name out there.
These sites are a blessing for publishers who are trying to find high quality royalty free stock images but just can pay for them. The sites recommended for finding free stock photos are as follows:

sxc Free ImagesSxu.hu a.k.a stock.xchng. This is a wonderful site. They have over 400,000 free stock images to choose from and the quality is wonderful! The site is extremely easy to use and sign up is quick! Defenitely worth looking into.
Compfight.com, Imagebase, pixelperfectdigital.com, and photorack.com all have really great high quality images.
freemediagoo.com, freephotosbank.com, freerangestock.com, freepixels.com, morguefile.com and free images.co.uk are other fantastic sites where you will find royalty free stock images online, free of charge.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
Free Lance PhotographerSome of the free stock image sites require that you link back to them, others don't. The same with fee based royalty free stock image sites, they don't require it but suggest it would be nice. Regardless of wheater it is required or requested you should always try to give credit to the site and the photographer, especially if you paid nothing for the royalty free stock images. This is easy to do if you have your own website or blog because you can link back to the site however you'd like. If you use the images for articles on the other hand, it can be a bit more difficult. Some article based websites allow you to list the credits when you upload your photos, others don't. One way to do this is to list the site under refrenses, that way you are at least mentioning where the royalty free images came from. The bottom line is that photographers are making a living just as the free-lance writer, the blogger, and the website owner. We all appreciate a referral, a link, or an acknowledgement when our content is used, so always keep that in mind.

Now that you have the basics down of finding royalty free stock images you should be able to obtain the pictures you have been looking for. Remember to shop around and compare, there are hundreds of sites that all have something to offer so narrow it down and you'll have your content looking great in no time at all. Also, it is important to point out that not all content needs pictures. Some of your work is short and to the point and that's fine, you wont need to find royalty free stock images for this type of work if you don't feel it is needed. Try to save the great stock photos for your longer material or where you know it is sure to enhance the quality of the material.

I would like to end by giving credit to the photographers who contributed to the royalty free stock images in this article. Thank you sxc.hu and imagebase and to sxc.hu users: mwookie, ugaldew, svilen001 and Liannelaan.