Image Licensing: Stock Photos vs Licensed Photos ZAC and ZAC

When you’re looking to create architecture and interiors content, you will usually need to include images.

In this process there are two main photography licensing types available to you:

  • royalty free
  • and licensed photos

Royalty free images (stock photographs) are usually very cheap or free with no restrictions on which individuals or businesses can use and share them for promotional purposes.

Licensed photos (commissioned from a photographer) can be a bit more expensive but have specific legal copyright conditions that protect them, and that means only the person who has paid for the photographs can use them.

Choosing between royalty free images and licensed photos for your promotional content is akin to choosing between a rented and tailored three piece suit for a wedding, as this analogy will outline:

A rented suit will be cheap, which is a clear positive, and yes, it will probably do the job and get you through the day, but there’s no guarantees regarding who else has worn the suit or what has been done with it in the past. The suit will already have been worn for countless weddings, and is unlikely to tick every box that you’re looking for in your dream three-piece. It’s not personal and unless you can find a suit of genuine quality it’s unlikely to help you stand out from the crowd, and worst case scenario, someone else at the wedding has gone to the exact same rental shop and is wearing the same suit as you.

A tailored suit on the other hand is a bit more expensive, but you have total control over measurements and materials and ultimately will only pay exactly what the suit is worth. A tailored suit is created specifically to your specifications and will suit you to a tee. You know this will be the only suit of its type in existence and don’t have to worry about someone else at the wedding clashing with you. There’s no chance of the suit having been worn at another, as you’re the only person who’s ever owned it.

A stock image is similar to a rented suit. It’s definitely more cost effective, but there are no guarantees of who else has or is currently using that specific image. An image could have been used on countless websites or promotional material in the past and you have no idea what kind of message it may have been used to portray. It may help convey a certain idea, but chances are it won’t express it completely as you would have ideally hoped for. You’re especially not going to stand out against competitors if there’s potential that they’ve been using the exact same image as you.

A commissioned licensed image however is like a tailored suit. More expensive? Sure, but only as expensive as you need it to be. You are able to tailor your photograph exactly to your specifications, with location, what’s included in the image and everything from the set-up of the image itself to the angle it is taken from which is entirely down to your personal preference. If there’s something you don’t like about the image you can alter it. You will be at ease in the knowledge that the image only goes as far out into the world as you want it to, and that none of your competitors will be able to use the same photograph for their promotional material, meaning the message it conveys is completely under your control.

The three main benefits of commissioning a photographer and getting licensed images are:

You have total control over the image’s creation and the rights surrounding it

By far the most important factor for any promotional content is how it is shared and by who. With managed rights images you have total control over how and by whom your image is used promotion-ally for as long as the licence covers the photograph.

The image is totally unique and tailored to you and your collaborators

With commissioned images you’re the last word on how the photograph looks; which products or landscapes are pictured, the lighting, styles, angles and any other factors you feel necessary to show off your ideas. The photographer will take your thoughts and make them a reality.

You only pay for what you need

As with any tailored service you will know exactly what you’re paying for when hiring a photographer to create a licensed image. You will pay for the professional’s time, expertise, and overheads just like any business.

To sum up royalty free photos will save you money, but there’s a risk that they’ll affect your reputation later down the line as you have no control over who else can use them. With managed rights images taken by a professional photographer, you have control over the image, the rights around its promotion and a more easily managed reputation going forward. Further to this you will only ever pay for what you need.