Stock Photos: A Cheap and Royalty-Free Disaster Plan

Planning is critical to any newsroom operation, especially planning for the unpredictable. Usually, it’s the same scenario. A staff story falls through a few hours before deadline and you’re left with a wire story with weak photos, or no photos at all.

You have to come up with something quickly, but where do you turn? You can’t find anything in the photo archive, there are no photographers available and the wire photos have already let you down. Don’t panic!

Thanks to the Web, finding affordable images is just a click away.

I don’t just mean affordable, I mean cheap, high quality images with lots of versatility. Not only can they get you out of a jam, stock images are a good source for all kinds of projects.

Need an image of a dolphin for a travel brief or a conceptual illustration on personal finance? No problem.  In five minutes you can download a royalty-free image for under five dollars. And many of the sites offer Flash files as well.

Here’s a list of sites to check out:

Istockphoto is my favorite source because there are thousands of images created by people from around the world. There’s a lot of cultural and stylistic diversity available and most images are under five dollars. The site is very easy to navigate and search. And, you can earn money by selling your images on the site. But be sure to check your employer’s policy. Most images created for a news organization become company property.

The rest of the list I have used less frequently but also offer downloads in the one to five dollar range for a high resolution image.

Big Stock Photo

US Photo Stock

Can Stock Photo
$2-$4 or by subscription

$2 per image

$1 per image

Over five dollars:

Prices range from $6.95-$29.95


Eon Images
$10-$45. Historic and contemporary photos.

Other resources:

Search several stock photo agencies at once with these sites:
Media Bakery

Wikipedia offers a list of stock agencies by type.

The National Archives

The National Archives has many historic and contemporary images that you can download free of charge. However, not all of the images are free of charge or free of copyright, so be sure to read the information carefully.

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