Recently, I heard about how a public library recently found itself in some very hot water. It ran afoul of a very large provider of stock photography. The library used a licensed photograph from a stock photo site without paying for the license. Their copyright infringement came to the provider’s legal team’s attention and, in this case, asking the library to take down the image wasn’t enough. The library received not only a cease & desist letter, but was also informed that it needed to pay a hefty fine for unlicensed usage. This situation was unfortunate, but could easily have been avoided.
To be fair, finding artwork for your library’s website can be a challenge. You don’t want to use clip art, for at least a few reasons:
- Clip art quality is usually iffy at best;
- Clip art doesn’t represent actual library content and thus wastes prime real estate;
- Graphics incur a cost in download time to the end user. If it’s just decorative and serves no contextual purpose, it’s literally a waste of time for your site’s visitors;
- Lastly, what institution looks credible using the same artwork available to the average third grader for their book reports?
So, no clip art. (Please. Don’t make MeanLaura cry.) If you don’t have someone one who can take great photos (and edit them at least semi-professionally) on staff, what do you do?
This is where stock photos come in. There are many such sites, and the costs are usually very reasonable. You get professional photos, often for around a buck or two; the selection is often very good.
What does this mean to me, Laura?
- Paying a bit for stock photos is much less money than the hundreds of dollars the copyright-infringing library will likely have to come up with in back licensing fees.
- Prices can vary widely! Most sites use a credits system, where you purchase a number of credits and you can then spend those on desired images. The price per credit differs from site to site, and the price per photo can also be incredibly different from photo to photo. Check carefully how many credits a photo will eat up before clicking through to buy it.
- The variety is usually very good, so you don’t end up using the same photo of a kid reading that you’ve seen on sites X, Y and Z.
- Many such sites also offer high-resolution versions, which you also be used in print publications.
- Yes, there are free stock photo sites. However, remember TANSTAAFL: you get what you pay for. In many cases, the quality is lower and selection is poor. One popular one to try is stock.XCHNG.
- You want to make sure that any you purchase are royalty-free, or you’ll have to keep on paying for them. Some sites to try: iStockPhoto, BigStock and FreeDigitalPhotos (some are free, some are not). If you’re planning a large print run though, check the license carefully; some royalty-free stock photos have a limit on how many times they can be reproduced.
Where does your library get photos for its website? Let us know in the comments!