Using stock photography often gets a bad rap. While there are issues, when used strategically stock photos are a good option for small business owners.

Professional photography is expensive. The cost can make it prohibitive for businesses with small marketing budgets. A business following a modest social media schedule by posting four times a week across four channels will use almost 200 images per year.

Opponents of stock photos say they are too generic. Because the images need to appeal to a broad range of companies and businesses, often the images are somewhat predictable or play into a cliche. Stock images may not be fully reflective of your brand’s personality. Plus, most sites don’t limit the number of times a photo or image can be downloaded, so the likelihood the image will be elsewhere on the web is high.

Another objection to using stock are the potential licensing restrictions. Each site will have different rules about how the photos can and can’t be used.The most popular license types are rights managed, royalty free, extended use and creative commons. Reading and understanding the differences between the photo license rights is important and can help prevent unexpected legal issues.

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Despite those obstacles, small business owners building their companies and brand will find stock photos to be a great option.

Stock photos are more affordable than hiring a photographer. Professional photography can cost hundreds of dollars per hour including the session and editing. Aside from branding images like head shots and office space, this is not always a viable option for marketing campaigns. Stock photos help solve affordability for small business.

More and more sites are compiling both free and paid options for their photos. Free photos typically used to be of lower quality than paid (and that is still a valid concern) but many sites now offer the same resolution for free that users formerly had to buy. High resolution photos are better for manipulating on sites like Canva and PicMonkey.

A site like Depositphotos, which is subscription based, has plans offering photos for as low as $1 each. Creative Market products can be downloaded straight to Dropbox. Both Dropbox and Canva have mobile apps, which is perfect when you need to create a campaign on the fly.

If you’re looking for stock photography resources, bookmark these 18 sites for future reference:

Negative Space
Lock and Stock Photos
Life Of Pix
Streetwill
Depositphotos
Death To Stock Photo
Startup Stock
UnSplash
StockSnap
Pexels
Hubspot
SplitShire
ISO Republic
New Old Stock
Blend Images
PicJumbo
Colorstock
Creative Market

If you use stock photos for your business, how has your experience been? Do you have a favorite resource not listed above? Let us know in the comments!