Introduction—stock media library review

Image and mixed media libraries exist to provide content to all those that seek content. Those seeking content include private and professional individuals, groups, agencies and various organisations. Media content is used extensively in all kinds of applications including education and training course material, product artwork and labeling, advertising and marketing campaigns, catalogues and various media publication content, both printed and electronic including:

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines and periodicals
  • Books
  • Reports
  • Promotional products
  • Displays
  • Catalogs
  • Portfolios
  • Papers
  • Websites
  • Electronic media disks
  • TV & Radio—Audio media
  • Investigation & forensic applications
  • Art decor
  • Personal collections

Stock media in this day and age is predominately in the form of stored digital electronic files that render to visual graphics and pictures both still, animated and movie along with audio sounds. Stock media refereed to in this article are mostly digital image files, but the same generally applies to other media forms as mentioned above. Those seeking images can search the internet on keywords such as “stock photo”, “stock photography”, “stock image” libraries, agencies or sites. There are many of them, so be prepared to do a lot of reading when looking for the one that best suits your needs. Some offer a range of free images, although their use might be limited so you will need to check the terms of use and copyright agreements. Others provide them at a relatively low cost under a “microstock” marketing model, while others provide subscriptions for regular buyers such as advertising and promotional agencies, periodical publishers and organisations that are very high-volume users, So everybody is catered for: PR Web (

The media content that makes up the stock library or archive is usually derived from a wide community of various artists both amateur and professional. These artists include photographers, graphic artists, videographers, sound engineers or enthusiasts, writers, illustrators and the likes. These artists open accounts with various stock libraries to be suppliers; many supply to more than one stock library. Most suppliers are paid a percentage of licence fees received by the library from the buyer, based on downloads of their work. It is usually very small for royalty-free licensed downloads—particularly the microstock sales model, promoting a supermarket style of operation (small commissions, large volumes; pay-per-download, much in the same vein as pay-per-click in web advertising). That could impact on the overall quality of the images as sacrifices might be made to achieve volume with variety. However most libraries have quality control procedures in place that limits lower-end quality work. Quality can be assessed in both the digital and optical results, as well as the subject, set or shooting environment—budget influenced. Those looking for a higher standard of image technical and artistic quality such as high-rating advertising and branding agencies still provide a solid market for higher-end work that is not so prevalent in many of the microstock markets. This is changing however, as anything worth a look at will attract interest that often leads to change, but will still be subject to that common conundrum: “You pay for branding, verses you get what you pay for”! If you are a frequent, or even infrequent content buyer, which stock image or digital media library offers the best deals and opportunities for you? That is the million dollar question!

Reviewing stock image libraries is not so simple. A review for contributors would not necessarily apply to media buyers and vice verse. Photographers and other artists want to supply to where the buyers go, but that is hard to know! As a buyer you want volume, variety, quality, value and a great interface to the site. This would infer the more popular stock image library sites would be the ones with a great web interface for buyers! Like many things the ones that get their marketing right win in the end, but who reviews that! A survey to a representative population of users might reveal who’s stock site marketing efforts are winning. As a buyer, “who do you know of and use”, might be a leading question in such as survey.

Some stock libraries provide individual image files to any buyers through the modern shopping cart model, while others require you to register with the stock library as a potential buyer first, then use the shopping cart style model. Some offer subscriptions where you subscribe for a period of time at a set cost and can download set quantities, or any number of image files for that matter, as long as your subscription is valid. It can be renewed for continuation each time. Generally creative works used in creating salable product will be sold as rights managed and the cost of the user licence will vary with the speculated royalties earning potential. This speculation is compiled from such information as type of use or publication, volume of circulation or size of audience, number of insertions, or performances etc, front or home page (position in publication or performance), size with respect to rest of the page, label, or performance time etc, exclusivity, and any other elements for commercial use purposes that define how valuable the image or works are to the income earning potential of the end product. How much did the creative works attribute to the sales value of the product?

Royalty-free licencing does away with all this complexity, however income from sales is less certain, it relies on the psychology of lower pricing induces higher sales volumes.  The stock media libraries will ascertain whether royalty-free licences or rights-managed licences are granted and that should be reflected in the commissions paid to the supplying artists.

In summary it is difficult to get the type of information needed by suppliers or stock media library contributors to make a judgement of comparison based on sales volume.  While this information is difficult to get, statistical information on web traffic is a lot easier to obtain and is often used as a measure of the volume of traffic a stock media library generates. The question is does traffic volume relate to sales volume? For media buyers a review is a bit easier. Prices, packages, site quality, technical matters and customer service are all easier to analyse. However a favorable buyer review is likely to lead to a favorable contributor experience. If you are a photographer looking to be a stock photo supplier, you may find this link very helpful: Yuri Arcurs Photography (

More sites about stock media libraries can be found by searching the Flexigav Delicious bookmarks from the blogroll.


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