One problem you can face as a creative is when you have project that requires photographic elements to stand out, but you have little to no budget to work with. In those cases, cheap stock photos can definitely save the day!
There's a plethora of stock photo agencies, called microstock agencies, selling decent quality images at very low prices, with flexible licenses. Plus, they put a lot of effort in giving you quantity and variety of content.
Microstock photo agencies are a good alternative to traditional and more expensive stock photography suppliers. Even if you're working on a tight budget, you can still get the elements you need to create great designs.
So, are cheap stock photos worth your time? Most definitely!
How Cheap are Cheap Stock Photos?
At microstock photo agencies the price of the photos depends on different factors, the most important ones being image resolution and size, and buying method.
Buying on demand — or a la carte — stock photos are between $1 and $15 depending on resolution and size.
Most of these agencies have a minimum purchase requirement: they sell you image packs (or credit packs that you then use to buy the photos) to grant a minimum investment from your part. At the same time, the more you're willing to invest upfront, the more money you'll save: larger upfront purchases mean greater discounts over image price.
But most of microstock agencies also offer stock photo subscriptions: they give you a bigger number of downloads per month, for a fixed monthly price. With a subscription, images cost often less than a dollar each. It doesn't get much cheaper than that!
How Flexible are Cheap Stock Photos?
Stock photos at cheap microstock sites are sold almost exclusively based on the Royalty Free licensing model.
Royalty Free license gives you a wide range of usage rights, with no time limit, for a one-time fee. Once you pay for your license you are ready to use the image in any of the accepted ways, forever and without paying any further royalties.
While this license comes with some restrictions, it still has some of the most flexible usage terms of all, for both print and digital formats, covering most of your needs.
How Good are Cheap Stock Photos?
It's a misconception to believe cheap stock photos are poor in terms of quality. In reality, the overall quality of low-priced photos ranges from low to high.
Most serious agencies have quality standards and do a good job in keeping amateurish or simply poor quality images out. The images included in this companies' libraries are filtered by a selection process, and most of them also curate them according to quality, not only regarding resolution and technical aspects but also about content: concepts, feeling, etc.
Plus, the value in cheap stock photo collections is in variety, and the agencies know it. They all focus in offering large libraries with lots of images in every possible topic, subject and style. Some of the most popular companies have tens of millions of images.
You can find high quality images in any topic you need for less than $15, and subscriptions let you get hundreds of them for only a few cents each. That's how good cheap stock photos are!
Cheap Stock Photos are Totally Worth your Time
To sum up, cheap stock photos don't only come at low costs that let you fit them in your budget. They also have very flexible usage terms, they are decent quality and have wide variety in content.
They are a viable, if not the best, solution for the budget-minded designer.
If you want to start buying cheap stock photos, here you can learn all you need to know to get started.