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Stock Photography - Real Estate

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Making the best out of stock photography for your real estate website

What is stock photography?

Photographs that are commonly used by creative professionals and reused across the globe are labeled as stock photography. Creative professionals or any of those who are in need of such common photographs are normally from the realms of advertising, film making, publishing, artists and even web designers. Apart from these professionals, a number of amateur webmasters, bloggers and designers use stock photographs.

“Unlike an image of the rooms within an empty house, a stock photograph can help customers imagine the type of lifestyle one might live in the house.” says a well-known designer.

Stock photography is an old business concept. However, stock photography has evolved drastically with the advent of the Internet to save time and money for these professionals and is available through searchable databases. In addition to online databases, there are numerous traditional stock photography companies. Many online websites offering stock photography sell online and the entire process of identifying, payment and downloading can be done in a few seconds. The delivery modes for such purchases are normally thorough email or download modes.

Stock photography websites or companies work by collecting photographs from various sources such as professional photographers, amateur photographers, unused photographs from newspapers or magazines that have been rendered time-expired etc. These varied sources result in collection from various genres and many stock photography companies and websites also end up collecting almost all kinds of media like music, video clips and many other kinds.

These searchable collection of photographs thus accumulated are also called photo banks or image banks and sometimes referred to as photo archives or picture libraries. Known by so many names, the stock photography still does not have an apt name since today’s stock photography not only contains stills but also video and illustrations. With the introduction of new gadgets and media formats, the world of stock photography is witnessing gradual blurring of the defining boundaries.

The first well known stock photography company was formed way back in the year 1920 by H. Armstrong Roberts which exists even today by the name of RobertStock. Later, the development of this industry depended mostly on “seconds” or rejected photographs from magazines. The trend is very recent in which many photographers have opted to put their photographs up for paid and shared use resulting in accelerated growth and higher revenue generation for the industry due to change in business model. The fact that the source of photographs and video clips has diversified from institutional sources to retail providers, professional and amateur photographers alike, has greatly contributed to the volume as well as the diversity of the database. This increased availability has resulted in softening of prices, which in turn has rapidly increased the user base.

One of the top print and web designers in NYC says “Stock photography is an affordable way for companies and individuals to illustrate a point at a reasonable cost. Perhaps you know the saying “a picture says a thousand words”. Stock photography is a way to add graphic interest and give a feeling of the brand — bright and cheery, elegant and upscale, technologically innovative, Urban, Country, Exotic etc. One picture can give a lot of information.

Why use stock photography on your real estate Web site?

It is rightly said that a photograph is worth a thousand words. Any website, be it real estate or a website that sells cellular phones thrives on its presentation or its appeal to the human eye. The first impression of a site tends to linger in the mind of the visitor and that makes the look of the website of paramount importance to the website owner. Since the appeal is what takes the customer further and encourages him or her to stay on the website and read, a lot of efforts should go in upgrading the appearance of the website. While Google can be considered as an exception, a website without graphics or photographs today is totally unimaginable.

Websites that sell items which need to be visually inspected need to have photographs displayed. For example, in real estate websites, photographs of the estates are absolutely essential to give the inkling of interest to the visitor or the customer. Seeing is believing, and hence a real estate website should contain at least one photograph of each property that is listed. While the visual impact increases the chances of selling an item by at least 20 times, it also enhances the look and feel of a website. Thus, a real estate website has more chances of selling a particular property if the listing has at least one photograph of the said property.

Contrary, a popular web and print designer feels “I think the best course of action is to use real photos of their properties taken by professional photographers. The use of stock photography can be utilized for non-property specific photos that will help enhance a message or concept. For example, pictures of lock boxes, agents, generic photos of “for sale” or “sold signs”, construction photos that are similar to the type of real-estate projects the company works on, etc can be used from these sites.”

However, many feels that an estate or property that is properly depicted on a website, not only catches the eye of the buyer but also enhances the chances of the buyer wanting to see the property giving the real estate agent a chance to meet and close a sale. Pictures are of course, stronger than words…! Time tested..!

Where can I get stock photography for my Web site?

Stock photography websites are available all across the Internet. The most well know among them being, (stock.XCHNG), Adobe Stock, Creatas, Corbis and GettyImages. All these online platforms are comparably good and have their own set of distinct advantages and disadvantages. A cursory search in any of the search engines will throw names of quite a few stock photography sites, many of which might be catering to specific requirements of a niche group. Apart from online sources, many offline sources are also available, the most well known being Scoopt, fotolibra and ShutterPoint.

Is one stock photography source better than another?

Although distinctly each stock photography source is better or worse than the other depending upon the source that is being used and the purpose for which it is being used, no blanket judgment can be made about these websites. Relevant parameters such as resolution, price, niche and format come into the picture while making a decision. Customers from a particular niche mainly source their stock photography resources from a particular online or offline source since the quality Vs price aspect matches their needs.

Comparison of stock photography providers

istockPhotos Getty Adobe

URL Adobe Stock
Feature set 7.5 10 9
Search Options 7 10 9
Quality 7.5 10 9
Selection 7 10 7.5
Image Types
Illustrations Yes Yes
Photography Yes Yes Yes
Photo Objects/ Cut Outs Yes Yes
Editorial Yes Yes Yes
Clip Art
Vectors Yes Yes
Variety in Size/Resolution Yes Yes Yes
Fee for browsing No No No
Royalty Fee Yes Yes Yes
Rights Mgd./Protected Yes Yes Yes
Model released Yes Yes Yes
Video clips Yes Yes Yes
CD collections Yes Yes Yes
Custom CD
Assignment Photographers Yes Yes Yes
Media Mgt. Tools Yes Yes Yes
Comp Images Yes Yes Yes
Prints Yes
Special Interest
Medical Yes Yes
Celebrities Yes Yes
Editorial Archives Yes Yes Yes
PhotoJournalism Yes Yes Yes
Phone Yes Yes Yes
Fax Yes
Email Yes Yes Yes
SnailMail Yes Yes Yes
FAQ Yes Yes Yes

The above table depicts some features of the most famous stock photography options available online. The ratings are based on a point system of 10 and their score on that scale. The remaining features mentioned in the first column are self explanatory. While these comparisons are only relevant to requirements, it is recommended to visit the relevant website before making the decision on your stock photography requirements. An image can be vital in ensuring that a visitor spends more time in your website, and hence you need to make sure that you spend a good amount of time identifying the right photograph for your website.

While these comparisons are only relevant to requirements, it is recommended to visit the relevant website before making the decision on your stock photography requirements. An image can be vital in ensuring that a visitor spends more time in your website, and hence you need to make sure that you spend a good amount of time identifying the right photograph for your website. Overall, the bird’s eye view of the above comparison could be

As you can see, Getty ranks the top most in almost all features despite being on the expensive side. Interestingly, many top ranking designers from across the world have all good to say about Getty. As per a top designer, “While GettyImages has a solid collection of editorial photographs (particularly their archival ones), Getty's stock photographs are, in general, neither fish nor fowl: it is neither interesting and inexpensive” and according to another popular designer “Getty is clearly the industry leader but they have gotten fairly expensive. To service my clients in a cost effective way I always first utilize license/royalty free photos to see if I can find something that works. There have been several sites that offer a wide variety of license/royalty free images”.

While Getty enjoys the maximum mileage, istockphoto is also very high on the popularity charts. As per a designer, “For cheap images and illustrations, is amazing. The quality is not always great, but I have purchased art from them and altered it to make it my own. And for small inset images of classic objects, like fields of lavender, it’s great.” And another says “ contains a plethora of images for minimal prices, but it is very poorly edited. With a few notable exceptions, the vendors selling images here are primarily recent graduates, amateurs, and photographers whose work has not been accepted into a proper stock agency. While there are some basic quality standards in place, most of the images have at least one of several flaws commonly found in images by young photographers: poor lighting, bad cropping, sexually suggestive tone, or a poor model/subject. As recent graduates, amateurs, and photographers whose work has not been accepted into a proper stock agency cannot usually afford to pay proper models from representative age ranges (the photographers seem to rely on friends and volunteers), it is extremely difficult to find images of attractive people on this site between the ages of 35 and 65”.

The designer also adds “However, because this site will let almost anyone post to it, the sheer volume of images allows for some diamonds in the rough. As well, one can often find images here that are less staged or that cover far more unusual subjects than those found in a traditional stock house.”

So, it is apparent that rankings are not very relevant but again a question of niche and preferences counts the most.

How much does stock photography cost?

Stock photography can be roughly compared to PLR (Private label rights) that applies to software and content across the Internet. Since many people use the same resource, the cost of the resource becomes distributed over the number of users, thereby bringing the price down substantially. Compared to traditional photography, processing, scanning and ultimate usage, stock photography is both economical and time saving, in addition to the fact that stock photography offers higher variety. With this said, stock photography although has flawless images mostly, it is no way comparable to traditional or personalized photography. However, in the ever evolving, dynamic nature of the internet and the competitive professional world, people have become hard pressed for time. The actual cost of imagery can range between free to $15 per photograph depending upon resolution, type of licensing, size etc. For videos, the range could be a bit higher ranging from $15 to $50 again depending upon the formats and the length and of course the type of license. All other categories carry their own price tags, please refer to the relevant websites for more information on these.

If I purchase stock photography for my Web site, can I use it in my brochures and off-line marketing material?

Yes, in case the stock photography you have acquired is royalty free, you can use it as many times in as many places. However, in case of rights licensing, the licensing can be bought for a fixed number of copies and then you can use it at a particular payable per copy, generally between 1 and 3 cents.

What are licensing considerations for stock photography?

Stock Photography images are licensed to use and not free to use. In this event, the license granted could be free of cost, or at a negligible cost.

The images are royalty-free. However, this does not mean that the images are free to use, but can be used on a paid basis, multiple times or even unlimited times. The amount of fee varies and depends on the photograph but can range anywhere between $1 to $500 or even more depending on a variety of factors. A royalty free image is not exclusively owned by anyone.

Another kind of stock photography images are the rights managed images, also known as the licensed images. These images are time bound since the use is exclusive. Fee is charged on each use. During the time of exclusive use, the owner cannot resell the image to anyone. Fee on such images is variable and depends on various factors such as distribution, geographic location, exclusivity and length of time.

Tips for selecting stock photography
Selecting a stock photograph from a database is entirely a requirement oriented process. So, tips on the subject can be mainly leading to licensing or price issues. However, various stock photography websites carry different categories and the first step would be to narrow down your choices to the websites that list the categories you are looking for. Most of these websites have a huge database of captivating photographs, and chances are that you may loose track of your requirement specifications.
The regulations of access on each of these websites will be different from one another. With some websites needing you to pay for each photo or even for monthly use or unlimited use, you will need to zero in on your usage pattern for the images you require. Apart from the access, most stock photography websites also have restriction the ways you can use the photos you acquire from them. Since there is no transfer of ownership, you are not generally allowed to manipulate the image or use it in a way that can be called offensive or obscene.

Now that you know what to decide before you go hunting, the following tips can help you decide on getting the stock photography you want:
1.Check for the website’s longevity and its support history. In case you need them on some issue, you should be able to reach them.
2.Check the total volume in the collection. Sheer numbers bring down the costs substantially which means that the stock photography websites with larger collections can generally offer a lower price, especially if you are looking for exclusive use.
3.Go through the terms of use and legality issues before you order your sock photography. Make sure you understand all terms to avoid heartaches later.
4.Check and compare prices with other competition, especially if you find the same stock photography or similar ones that you can use for yourself.

With the above tips in mind, you can safely go acquire that much needed stock photography today.
Published: 2007-08-17
Author: Prerna Anshul Panwar

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