Affordable professional images for your small business marketing

by Vivian Luo


Pictures say a thousand words. This cannot be truer when it comes to your marketing. Whether it is a website or a printed brochure, the inclusion of images will add visual interest, colour and context that you can’t express using words alone.

In this article, I’ll run through one of the most affordable sources of royalty free images you can find online – www.iStock.com.

First of all, what is stock photography?

Stock photos are ready-made images that are licensable for use in your marketing materials to demonstrate specific concepts or ideas. In our everyday lives, we come across thousands of stock photos which are not created specifically for that particular advertisement. Stock photos are used by large and small businesses alike, as it is a cost-effective way to purchase and use professional images.

Designer working from homeWhy iStock.com?

From my experience of using stock photography, I’ve found iStock to have one of the largest banks of photos, videos, sound files and vector illustrations. I have also found the licensing terms to be most suitable for print and online publications, at prices that are very affordable.

How do I find the right photos?

Simply visit the website, and begin your search by typing into the search bar. As you start typing, iStock will suggest matching keywords (similar to a Google search). You can then filter by the file type you’re after (e.g. photo or illustration). If you find that your search term is very broad and therefore a lot of results were returned (e.g. sport), you can then narrow your search by adding more keywords (e.g. football, goal, celebration). Then it’s just a matter of going through all the results until you find the one you like best.

How do I buy a licence to use these photos?

iStock has a credit system for its stock media. Prices range from around US$0.24 to US$1.96 per credit, depending on the volume and type of subscription you choose. There is a ‘pay as you go’ option if you’re only after low volumes. Photos can cost as little as 1 credit and increase in credit as you increase the size (resolution) and type of licence you need. See here for further information about pricing and licensing terms.

Once you have your account and credit ready, and you’ve chosen an image you’d like to purchase, you can simply click on the ‘Download this photo’ button. You’ll be asked to agree to iStocks terms of use before the download begins. Once the file is downloaded, save it in a folder of your choice on your device.

Things to consider before you download

• As different licensing terms cover different volume (in terms of impressions) for different media (e.g. print or online), always consider where and how you intend to use an image before you start to ensure that you purchase the right type of licence for your needs. 

• If you’re going to use the image in a prominent piece of marketing, e.g. your website homepage, it’s worthwhile to take a look at your competitor’s marketing material to ensure that you’re not using the same photo/model to avoid confusing potential customers.

• None of the licenses on iStock allows you to use their stock in logos or trademarks, so if that’s your requirement, you’ll need to hire a designer to create bespoke artwork.

• Please be aware that iStock does not allow images to be used to depict personal endorsement by the model. So if you’re after an image to appear next to a customer testimonial, ensure you use a photo of your actual customer.

 is the Marketing Manager at Hotfrog. Vivian writes about small business marketing from her experience as an advertising account manager for thousands of small businesses across metropolitan and regional Australia. The soon-to-be mother of two enjoys sharing great food and films with family and friends.

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