For a long time, stock photography has been synonymous with one core department of any well run business: advertising. Business owners around the world rely on stock photos to craft original and visually pleasing advertisements, since stock photos are so much cheaper to acquire than directly commissioned photos, and so much more versatile and powerful than photography captured by hobbyists or business owners hoping to pinch a penny. But there's one other reason, and it's a big one, why stock photos and advertisements go hand in hand so well. Exploring and explaining the real reason why stock advertisement is one of the most popular business use of stock photos will shed light on why business owners need stock photos in the first place, and also prove definitively a fact that escapes a lot of business owners and stock photo users: stock photos are NOT just for advertising.
To explain why, we have to start by taking a look at why advertising is the one place where stock photos find so many business uses. The biggest reason? Licensing. Because when it comes down to it, stock photographs are artistic creations. Every stock photo was captured by an artist, who owns the exclusive right to determine how that photo is used. When a photographer transfers that license to a stock photo vendor, who in turn transfers it to you, they are transferring the right to use that photograph for commercial purposes. That's what you are really getting when you pay for a stock photo: the right, or license, to use a work of art for your business's commercial needs, including advertising.
Stock photos have become so ubiquitous in the advertising industry, and are so widely used because they offer a cheap and legal way for business owners to obtain commercial rights to a piece of visual art. But while advertising is certainly the most obvious commercial use of photography, and the most common for many businesses, it's not the only commercial purpose for which business owners need imagery. And it's not the only place that business users should be using stock photography, either. For smart business owners who like to keep their use fair and their imagery legal, there are a lot more places where stock photography is the right choice, aside from just advertising.
For starters, stock photography can and should be used for all of the imagery you use for internal presentations within your company. That's right: even if you are only sharing an image within your employee team, for a training exercise or internal memo or as part of a presentation, using stock photography is your best legal choice. This is something of a foreign concept to most business owners, but the logic is exactly the same as the reasoning behind why stock photography and advertising is so synonymous. Again, it all comes down to licensing. The artist who captures a photo is in charge of deciding how it can used, and unless you have express written permission from a photographer granting you the right to utilize their work for your most recent training presentation, you probably don't have the right license to use any old image for your business's internal uses.
Next up, there is a big myth that if you aren't using a photograph for strictly commercial or "for profit" purposes, you don't need to pay a licensing fee and shouldn't bother with stock photography. But unfortunately for business owners hoping to find a money saving gray area, this simply isn't the case. Even bloggers who make nothing from their websites don't have the right to use imagery on their blog without obtaining a license for that imagery first. And if that seems harsh, just think about it from the artist's perspective. Photographers put a lot of work into capturing the perfect imagery, and if you want to use that imagery, it's only fair that the artist who captured it has a say in how it is used and what compensation looks like.
The bottom line is that many business owners misunderstand how flexible and powerful stock photography can be, because they misunderstand the nature of imagery licensing, and falsely assume that you don't always need to have the rights to use an artist's imagery. Almost everyone who creates advertisements for their business utilizes stock photos at some point, since doing so is a cheap and easy legal route of obtaining commercially licensed imagery. But stock photos are good for a lot more than advertisements, because you need licensing to use photographs in a lot more situations.
When you get right down to it, any time your business uses a photograph without proper licensing, your business is in legal danger. Stock photos allow you to easily and inexpensively remove that danger by obtaining correctly licensed imagery. Just make sure that you don't stop at advertising where licenses are concerned, and consider instead using stock photos whenever you want legal imagery for your business.