How to Source Imagery

Medium Read

First things first, what do we mean by imagery?

For this guide, we’re referring to imagery used by brands. And this can incorporate a wide range of visuals, including photography and illustrations.


Why imagery is important

Every day we are bombarded by brand imagery. It’s everywhere, from on our phones to the sides of buildings.

For that reason alone, it is vitally important that your imagery stands out and is a unique visual that tells your brand story. Being authentic is vital in building brand loyalty and choosing the wrong image can hamper this trust.

But finding that perfect image can be hard.


Stock Imagery

There are two distinct branches of stock imagery, one being free stock and the other paid stock. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

Starting with free stock, there are a number of great websites that we use regularly here at Nalla.

Some of our favourites are:

If we’re tasked with finding imagery, the two sites listed above are where we normally start. They have a great range of photography created by some really talented individuals. It also helps that the search function is pretty good. However, if you search for something very specific, chances are it’ll return with nothing – so the more generic the search term, the better the result!

In most cases, all they ask in return is that you credit the photographer. However, it’s not always a requirement for using the images in commercial work. But please do read the terms and conditions.

The quality of free stock imagery has improved immensely and if you have the time to look, you may stumble across an absolute gem. They are also great for more natural shots of people, something that paid stock libraries find hard to get right.

Next up is paid stock. All of this imagery is split into two categories; royalty-free and rights-managed.

Royalty-free is as it sounds, once you purchase the image you are free to do what you like with it. Edit it, use it however many times you want and use it wherever you like with little restrictions.

With rights-managed imagery, you will have to obtain a license that allows you to use the image in a very specific way. To obtain a license, you will have to state exactly how you intend to use the image and in particular its specific use, medium, period of time, print run, placement, size of content, territory of use etc, etc, etc…I’m sure you get the picture (wahey!).

This also means that if you want to use the image in a different way, you will need to obtain another license. The price of a license will depend on the specific use and as such they can range from affordable to expensive.

Because of the complexity of obtaining a license and the usual high price tag you can almost guarantee that you will have a unique brand image. And in some circumstances, as part of the licensing agreement, you may be able to obtain exclusive global rights and thus ensuring no one else will be able to use that specific image.

Here are some paid stock sites that we regularly use at Nalla:

Paid stock imagery can be great, as you can be quite specific with your search input and it will generally come back with something usable. However, due to the sheer volume of images on these sites, just trawling through the rubbish to find the diamond in the rough can be extremely time-consuming, especially if you have a very specific image that you need to find.

If you have a client who is stuck on a particular image and nothing in the world of stock imagery is measuring up, it’s best we move on to the next section; commissioned imagery.


Commissioned Imagery

Commissioned imagery is when you brief a photographer, illustrator or artist to create the imagery that you require for your brand.

The major advantage of going down this route is that you can end up with something truly unique and authentic to your brand.

For commissioned imagery, you must keep in mind that you are commissioning someone because you like what they produce. Don’t ask them to do something that is outside of their domain. For example, you wouldn’t ask Banksy to paint a wall mural for a kid’s nursery, the same rule applies to other creatives. Finding the right creative to work with is important, they will need to be able to understand what it is you have in mind and be able to translate that into a visual output. Writing a clear brief is paramount, as this is when you can lay out the parameters and what it is that you expect from the final outcome.

Seemingly, as with all thing’s imagery related, there are a number of legal requirements that will need to be considered when commissioning any work. Some of the areas to be mindful of are: obtaining model releases, performance licences, working with children, location permits, intellectual property rights etc.


Which route is right for you?

So, with all that being said, which one of these routes is right for your brand?

As you will now be aware it all depends on a number of different factors: how much time you have, your budget limitations and overarching expectations all play a part in dictating what is the right solution for your brand.

With that in mind, if you are one of the lucky ones and have been given lots of time and budget, you should consider the commissioned route, as the chances are the outcome will be more authentic than if you go down the stock route – there is nothing worse than having the same imagery as your direct competitor…