And She Asked “What Is A Stock Photo?”

A while back I handed a card to a woman that I see from time to time. This card was an over grown business card of sorts; it had a 5×7 print of one of my images on the front and my information on the back. Among the information it said “stock photos, digital downloads, prints, and gifts”.

One of my images used in a science book.

After she checked out the image and showed it to a friend she came back to where I was sitting and she asked; “What is a stock photo?”. My response was something like… a stock photo is an image that someone downloads to use when they need an illustration for a blog article, newsletter, or advertisement…  I doubt that I was very clear as I had really never tried to give a quick answer to that question.

Law Firm Brochure Cover
Two of my Kansas images used on a brochure.

Sometime last summer I wrote a post about what stock photos are but maybe it’s time to write that one again.

So here we go with another answer to the question “What is a stock photo?”…

According to Webopedia: “Stock photos are professional photographs of common places, landmarks, nature, events or people that are bought and sold on a royalty-free basis and can be used and reused for commercial design purposes. The photographer has ownership to the images, and the commercial designer has some limited usage of the photo… Stock photography is a cost-effective method for designers to obtain professional photos without the cost of hiring a photographer directly… Today stock photos can be purchased through a subscription and downloaded from a stock photography distributor’s Web site…”

Techopedia defines a stock photo as: ” …an electronic photograph used for creative or business purposes in lieu of hiring a photographer for a given project. Users retrieve stock photos from stock photo websites, which often license images for designated one-time uses, or sell royalty-free rights to photos that can be purchased once and used repeatedly…”


One of my images used on a web page.

When a buyer downloads a stock photo they are purchasing a license to use that photo. They don’t actually buy the file; only the rights to use the file. That same photo may be licensed hundreds or thousands of times buy various buyers who have all purchased a license to use the photo for a specified purpose or specific number of prints.

One of my couponing images used on an E-Book Cover.

There are many ways that stock photos are used such as:  major advertising campaigns, postcards, website illustrations, web advertisements, advertisements in print media like newspapers and magazines, promotional products, greeting cards, mouse pads, jigsaw puzzles, catalogues, textbook illustrations, short story illustrations in your favorite magazines, posters, the image of that happy family in that new frame you picked up at the dollar store, company brochures, book covers, CD and DVD covers, calendars, company or church newsletters, electronic books, blog posts, even restaurant menus. There are thousands of uses for stock photos everyday.

We see them all the time and don’t even realize it; but you’d miss them if they were gone. Just how dull would that children’s book about those happy kittens be without the photos of those adorable fuzzy little faces?


3 thoughts on “And She Asked “What Is A Stock Photo?””

  1. Fine Art Photography… instead of capturing a basic realistic recreation, the fine art photographer, creates a more personal, evocative, and thought provoking image of what otherwise could be a mundane scene. 😀

    Fine Art goes on the wall.
    Stock goes in the text books.

    Between the two of us we’ve got them covered!

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