Choosing the Right Stock Photo for Your Small Business


How to Choose a stock photo for advertising your small business

Finding a picture to advertise or promote your business can be distilled down to a three step process.  First, determine exactly what your goals for the picture are. Second, find the image you need. Third, complete the transaction.

We will take a look at each of these three steps and provide some guidelines for successfully navigating the process of finding and securing the use of the best image to promote your business.

Determining exactly what your goals for the photo are will help you avoid wasting time chasing down images that may ultimately not work for you, and will help you understand what qualities an image must have to fulfill those goals.

Among the questions to find answers to: 

            1.  What are all the possible ways the photo will be used?  For example, will it be used for a flyer, on the Internet, or in a newspaper?  Is it an image I want to utilize for a brief period of time, say a one-time use, or do I want this picture to be associated with my business indefinitely? 

Answering these questions will help you determine what sizes are needed and what rights need to be obtained.  Many people think that if they find an image on the Internet they can use it for free. 

It is important to realize that every image has a copyright owned by the creator, and if you use an image without permission you open yourself to a host of problems including the possibility of punitive monetary awards.

            2.   How important is this Image?  It is hard to overestimate the importance of the right image for the job at hand.  Often it is the photo that will stop a viewer and get them to read the information that can result in the prospect choosing your product or service.  For example, an image might seem like a good deal because it cost little to nothing, but if the image does not stop the viewer then the value is poor.  Don’t look for an image that “will do”.  Look for a photo that will stop the viewer and get him or her to read your copy.  A good test is do you find yourself saying “this one will work”, or do you find yourself mesmerized by the photo?  Humor is a great way to capture a viewer’s attention.  If you find yourself laughing out loud, you have probably found a great photo. In short, if a photo costs nothing and brings in no work it is not as a good a value as an image that costs $1,000.00 but brings in $10,000.00 worth of orders.

Having answered these questions it is time to locate the photos that will work for you.

You can use a search engine, such as Google Image search, or you can search various stock agencies.  Stock agencies may well save you a great deal of time and trouble. 

By using an agency you can be sure the photos are available for licensing and that they are of sufficient size and quality to prevent reproduction and use problems later on.  The two largest general interest stock agencies are and is great for cultural and ethnic diversity for both business and lifestyle photography. is an upcoming and innovative agency.  Kimball Stock is great for humorous animal photography as well as exotic car images.  The leading budget agency is  But keep in mind; you will do yourself a disservice if you place your highest priority on what you are going to pay as opposed to finding the images that will pay off for you!

Rights managed and royalty free small business stock photos

Once you find the image you want it is important to secure the rights you need. Stock photos are available in two licensing models: Rights Managed and Royalty Free (Royalty Free includes Micro stock which is a lower priced version). With Rights Managed the uses of the image are tracked so that you can insure your competitors are not using the same image.  Rights Managed has a reputation of being high-priced, but in truth, depending on the use you require, it might actually be less expensive.

With Royalty Free photography you pay by the image size and can use the image indefinitely and for whatever you want with few exceptions (the exceptions being primarily not using the images in a defamatory way or creating new competing stock images from the ones you license).  With any image be sure that any model and property releases have been obtained.

If searching via a search engine like or, you may find that hidden gem, or come across the collections of individual photographers.  It is important to remember that wherever you find the image it is necessary to obtain permission to use it and get that permission in writing! Further, be sure and get the image in the size and resolution you need.  Simply dragging the image onto your desktop will generally not yield a size appropriate for anything other than Internet use, and probably is a copyright violation as well.

The image you choose will be a direct reflection of your business.  It will often be that vital first impression that will set the stage for whether you make a sale or not.  Choose a picture that meets your well-defined goals, that has the quality necessary for your uses, and that you have proper permission to use.  You will be delighted at the results a great image can provide for your business.