Do Not Be Afraid of Using Stock in Your Creations

Being a freelance photographer and digital artist, I have resigned myself to the fact that I will not always be able to use my own photography in the images I create for clients.

Sometimes, the budgets or the concepts are just too small or too big. And it is the final image that counts, not actually who took the photo. This is where stock photography comes in. I would urge other creatives not to feel bad for using stock in their creations, but welcome it, as it makes creating your vision so much easier. I tend to use a mixture of attribution free and paid.

I recently created some background builds (matte painting) for Korean popstar JFLA's new music video, in which she will interact with the backgrounds.

I knew that I would not have sufficient images in my stock library, so while planning what I was going to create, I turned to my usual stock sites Pixabay (free) and Shutterstock (paid). Being able to browse and see what the photography had gave me more freedom with my vision to create what I wanted. I would start with one good template and build upon it from there. If you watch the speed edit above, you will see my process. All four backgrounds were created using stock.

The one thing to look out when using stock is to make sure you have the correct license. Pixabay is attribution free, so you are safe to use it how you want. But on paid sites like Shutterstock, you will need to read the license options and choose whichever one suits you. But ultimately, do not be afraid of using stock imagery. In the commercial world, it is the client's vision that needs fulfilling. Having an unlimited source of imagery frees up your vision and gives you lots of options you may not have with your own stock library.

Log in or register to post comments


Robert Anderson's picture

RE: pixabay. Copyleft means that your derived works themselves also become copyleft and free for anyone to use, so be careful.

gonsa sba's picture

English is not my main language, could you please reformulate?

Les Sucettes's picture

I think that’ll be the line where you are a Graphics Artist ... that’s fine and valid but that’s not photography ... ps I appreciate many photographers venture down the path of advertising and this becomes part of the toolkit (Leibowitz’s Disney pictures come to mind? The comment is more meant as an encouragement to not define yourself as a photographer when you do. I find that this sort of boxing yourself in keeps people from success when they are trying follow a brief. In advertising you’d have to see yourself as an illustrator/graphics imaging person first, photographer second

David Love's picture

I prefer taking my own stock images and not using already processed and color graded jpgs. Would be hard to call an image mine if 80% of it was from other photographers. I see people liking an image from others not realizing the parts they are commenting on weren't even photographed by the person claiming to have taken the image. This doesn't include things like smoke, textures, etc but if someone is just cutting a person out and slapping them onto someone else picture, that stock photographer should be given credit as well.

Clinton Lofthouse's picture

For personal work, I agree. The advertising/commercial world is a different world. It's not about your wants and needs, its all about the agency or the clients.

David Love's picture

I get that. I did Graphic Design for 16 years and the clients usually have no clue about what they are asking for but with no design skills will still demand what they think is art.

EXkurogane Blog's picture

My number 1 rule in photography - no stock photos.
I do composites, which blurs the line between a photographer and a digital artist. I want to be known as a photographer, not someone who photoshops his way out from existing images. That isn't photography.

You can manipulate images however you want, but everything used to produce the resulting photo, have to be your own work. If you just "remixed" other people's work I don't see you as a photographer.

Clinton Lofthouse's picture

Everyone has their own opinion on this...neither is right or wrong.