I’m always harping on clients to add photographs to their publications and I always hear, “But we don’t have any good photos!”

So buy them online!photostorage.gif

You can get high-quality, royalty-free stock photography for a few dollars per image (less if you want only web resolution). Lots of images available online were shot with advertising in mind, so they will often include areas that are perfect places for you to drop in some text.

I buy 95% of the images I use for clients and for my own websites and publications (including the images in the last few blog posts) from two sources:

iStockPhoto.com is my favorite, because their search engine is excellent. If you type in “black” for example, it will guess what you meant and then let you specify whether you meant “black as in descriptive color” or “black as in African descent.” It’s very easy to narrow your search to the photos you really want.

If I can’t find it on iStockPhoto.com, then I try BigStockPhotos.com. The search engine there isn’t as sophisticated and there is some overlap with other photography sites, but I have found great photos there that I didn’t see elsewhere.

At both sites, the more credits you purchase at once, the cheaper they are. I’ve been ripping through them for various clients, so I’m purchasing in the hundreds at both sites and I always spend them faster than I think I will. If you are trying these sites for the first time, I recommend getting 55 credits for $60 at iStockPhoto.com and 27 credits for $40 at BigStockPhotos.com. You can also find illustrations at iStockPhoto.com (no more cheesy clipart!). Web resolution photos cost 1-2 credits; high-resolution can be up to 15 credits depending on the size of the photo (for most print purposes, they’ll be in the 4-5 credit range.)

If you need city- or state-specific shots, try the convention and visitor’s bureau for the area. In most cases, you can register at their websites for free, agree that you’ll only use the photos to promote the location or an event there, and you can download high-quality photos at no charge.

A couple of times each year, when neither of these cheap site offers what I want, I get out my wallet and head over to Getty Images or Corbis. The photos cost more like $50 – $300 and there are more use restrictions, but you’ll find some incredibly beautiful and visually stunning photography and illustrations.

So what’s the downside to stock photography? The main problem is that others can use the same photo, so there’s a slim chance that someone else in your field or location will use the same photo you did. All the sites tell you how many times the photos have been downloaded, so if that’s a concern for you, pick images with few downloads.

And, no, the photos in my blog header are not stock. Those are my real kids and cats.