What You Don't Know About Stock Photos Can Hurt You

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.Kristen Luke

Your company’s brand is made up of not only your logo and the colors, but also the photographs in your marketing materials.  These three elements visually convey your value proposition to existing and prospective clients. 

But for most firms, the images on your website and marketing collateral are not original photos owned by you.  Most likely, they are stock photos or images licensed from the owner of the photo to use in your business.   They are an alternative to using original photographs and can be purchased online at sites such as Getty Images and iStockphoto for prices up to several thousands of dollars.   But if not properly planned for and managed, stock photos can become expensive and even a liability.  Before you use stock images, make sure you understand not only how you plan to use them and any licensing implications.

Purchasing the right image

When purchasing stock photos, make sure you are purchasing the correct resolution and image size for your needs.   Lower resolution images at 72 dots per inch (DPI) are appropriate for digital media such as websites, while higher resolution images at 300 DPI are required for print media such as brochures.  Using a 72 DPI image in print collateral will result in a fuzzy image and using a 300 DPI image on a website will lead to a slower download. 

Likewise, it is important to understand the size of the image needed.  While you can shrink the size of an image without reducing its quality, you cannot increase the size of the image without impairing its quality. Therefore, purchase a photo that is at least as large as the size you are going to need.  Purchasing the wrong size and/or the wrong resolution may require you to purchase the image again.

If you are purchasing an image that can be used multiple times for multiple purposes without time limitations, then purchase the largest image with the highest resolution possible (e.g. 17.5" × 18.4" or 5251px × 5530px at 300 DPI).  An image of this size and resolution will be more expensive, but will provide more flexibility in the future.   Let’s say you purchase a small, low resolution photo for your website, you may have to purchase the same photo again in a larger size and at a higher resolution when you want to use it in your brochure.  This additional unnecessary expense of purchasing the image twice can be avoided by properly planning from the beginning.

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