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Selecting Good Stock Photography in the Age of Digital

The business of stock photography has drastically changed over the last few years. Ten years ago, selecting photographs for your brochure or newsletter meant spending hours pouring over stock photography catalogs and ordering photo research to find the exact image. When the order came in a giant overnight package, designers would spread transparencies out on the light table, squinting through a magnifying loop to check every detail.

Enter the digital age.

High speed Internet connections. CD's. Searchable Archives. Royalty-free stock. These elements have changed the face of communication design forever. The quality, quantity, affordability and accessibility of stock imagery have made it the resource of choice for many organizations.

The advantages of instantaneous access to searchable archives of good images are numerous.

  • Speed :: We can never have enough of it. Search. Download. Import. It's remarkable.
  • Choice :: Searching "stock photography" on Google delivers 1,470,000 results. You can find pretty much anything out there.
  • Price :: While there are free resources, unless you are doing a school report, you may need something slightly more exclusive. Also, many of the free images are only good enough for online display and the selection is very limited. Royalty-free images are reasonably priced, you pay for only the size you'll use and images can be used as needed with no extra charges.
  • Flexibility :: Image selections can be grouped, saved and emailed to others in the review cycle. People in different locations can simultaneously review ideas.
  • Archiving :: Some companies even keep a record of your buys that you can re-download whenever you need them. To use this resource effectively, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
  • Plan ahead :: Will you ever need the picture to be printed? The low cost of "low resolution" images can lure you into costly mistakes. Images need to be 300 dpi (dots per inch) at the size they will be printed.
  • Low-cost tradeoff :: Pictures are now so affordable, everyone's buying them. That means your image could show up in your competitor's brochure. Some projects call for more exclusive imagery.
  • Image-enhancement :: When you need something totally unique, such as your product in the shot, it may be more economical to hire a photographer than to have your designer spend countless hours in Photoshop trying to get it just right.
  • Availability :: Good images still cost money. While many firms have images on file, don't expect your designer to have a database full of images right for your project.
When searching on the web, search for "stock photography" rather than doing an image search in Google or another search engine. Google returns all images from the web -- including those that are the property of others and not legally usable.

About The Author

Beth Brodovsky is the president and principal of Iris Creative Group, LLC. Brodovsky earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Design from Pratt Institute, New York. Before launching her own firm in 1996, she spent eight years as a corporate Art Director and Graphic Designer, providing a sound foundation in management and organizational standards and structure. Iris Creative specializes in providing marketing and strategic communication services to clients in service industries and small businesses. For more information contact Beth at bsb@iriscreative.com or 610-567-2799.

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