There are a few things you must keep in mind when buying a stock photo library, to ensure you are buying the best content for your needs.
Image quality, selection, price, format and licensing are all important points to compare libraries before purchase, and find the best collection for you.
Does the image quality of the library match the quality level of the end product? Make sure you can view samples of the images (full-resolution samples are even better!) before you buy.
Selection is a key feature of a good photo library. Collections can have between 10 and 1,000 photos. Quantity is not the key, curation is – be sure there is ample variety for your intended uses. Look for alternatives in poses, lighting, color, focus, framing, and background.
At $100 to over $1,000, a stock photo library can be a large investment. Don't be afraid to shop around for a deal. You can often find off-season deals (for example, a summer collection during winter months), and other special offers.
Traditionally, stock photo libraries have been available only on CD-ROMs, or even as DVD-ROMs – what it's known as a Stock Photo CD. But more and more since the rise of online stock photo agencies, they are being offered as digital downloads (in a compressed format).
A stock photo library is often based on a particular theme (Halloween, parties, spring, etc.) or subject (agriculture, nature, sports, etc.), so if you are looking for a particular use, you can get an entire collection of related photos in one simple step.
Licenses and Restrictions
Most stock photo libraries come as Royalty Free (RF), which is a very flexible license model. But be sure to read the fine print in the licensing agreement.
If the photos feature people, make sure they are model-released, if there's private property or trademarked logos or designs, assure they are property-released as well. And understand the permitted and restricted uses beyond doubt to ensure your use is legal.
Where to Buy
Buy your photo collection from a reputable source: direct from photographers, stock photo agencies, and office supply stores. If you are unsure, contact them and ask questions.
Keeping these few items in mind will help you find a quality library of images that will be useful both now and in the future, maximizing your investment and saving you time and money.