The use of photography in graphic design had its birth way long ago, back in late 1920 decade, when Herbert Bayer, after leaving Bauhaus school, where he was the teacher of “Print and advertising Workshop”, started to study the interconnections between “advertising science” and psychology.
He started then to integrate photos in his work, with montages and screens, in order to give more dynamics and expressiveness to his creations and make of them what he called “an architectural framework“.
Those really were first photo montages of graphic design history.
In our days, with the use of computer graphics the use of pictures in any kind of job is a must.
Recently I’ve read an article in a blog that stated: “it is useless to spend a lot of time in Stock Photography websites to search for the right shot while you possibly have a nice camera and you can do the shot yourself”.
I personally STRONGLY disagree with this point of view.
Unless you are an experienced photographer yourself, I firmly believe that a paid job is not the moment to make experiments and play with the brand reputation of your customer!
An image in a website, in advertising or any other printed composition is never just a “shot”.
It has, in a first instance, the task to grab attention.
It has then to engage, beautify, tell a story, create desire, and all of this it must be done being consistent with the image of the brand.
To make it short “it has to sell”.
Your photography necessarily must be “professional”: if photography misses the mark, your brand message will be diluted, if not damaged!
After you’ve spent so much time brainstorming about a message that compels, it must be supported by compelling imagery.
Notice also that if you need your image for printing, professional quality is necessary to guarantee quality reproduction.
Never think customers won’t notice it: they will, whether consciously or not.
Furthermore, if you use photos with people you NEED to have the Model Release, a legal document signed by subjects portrayed, that grants you the permission to use and publish the photo.
I have read a lot of times on various design groups on Usenet, both about people that got into trouble because they used a picture without legal permission and others that were bragging about suing others because they used one of their shots, so, I always use professional stock photography.
A thing you have to know, however, are the differences between various kind of licenses:
- Royalty Free is the most common and affordable license type, often called just RF. As the name says, you can use the image purchased as many times as you want without paying an additional royalty. They have usually good prices, that may vary according to the company of your choice. The only downside is that these images are not exclusive.
- Rights Managed license (or RM) gives you exclusive (but time-limited) use of a stock image. This means that if you buy this kind of license you are the only one to use the image in the period specified in the contract. Photos can be used only for one project and for a period of time, sometimes even only on specified geographical areas. This is an expensive licence, but it protect you brand from competition using the same image.
- Extended/ Enhanced licenses. Not every company offers this kind of licenses, which extends the use of a previously licensed work. You have thus the permission to increase the printed copies featuring the image, to use it for resale purposes or for other method of distribution. It is advised to carefully read the contract, as uses allowed vary from company to company.
- Subscription. This is pretty new, it is not available everywhere also, but this kind of offer is quickly expanding. You pay a monthly fee, often choosing among different price plans, and you can download a set number of photos of your choice. This is probably the best deal if you have to download images often. As a plus, you usually have no limitation about the use.
Here are the stock photo companies that, to my opinion, offer the best value for money:
Probably one of the most famous and one of the first to offer licensed images, since 1995. According to what they say, every months about 4 million people utilizes their website. You find there award winning images, illustrations and even videos and music. Their new offers are The Flickr and the Vector collections.
A great offer for a great value. They have subscription plans that allows you to download up to 25 images a day in a database that has millions of images.
Another huge collection of photos of famous photographers and a lot of niche collections. They often propose discount. Actually you can have 10% discount with the promo code in the home page.
To finish, some sample images from these websites: