Using Stock Photos in Marketing: 20 Sites with Free Images

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Wouldn’t it be great if you had high quality, high resolution photos to promote every single event/concert/exhibit? For those of us who live in the real world of non-profit arts management, this is often not the case. In the real world of orchestra marketing, we sometimes deal with low resolution, candid shots from guest artists or past events that we’re expected to use in our promotion.

Having high resolution photos is very important for a graphic designer to appropriately design your marketing pieces. Where they come from and the quality of the photos is very important. I’m going to say this once, and in very large letters so you understand me.

DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, RIGHT CLICK AND SAVE A PHOTO FROM THE INTERNET TO USE FOR HIGH QUALITY PRINT JOBS!

People who don’t deal in graphic design often can’t understand why saving a 24kb photo from Google can’t be used in their 5 foot tall poster for the concert hall. It’s all about pixels and resolution. Trust me. The other issue with taking photos off of Google is that you more than likely don’t have the right to use it. There are copyright issues with several photos and if you haven’t asked or secured the rights to use them, you could find yourself in violation with copyright laws. So while these resources I’m getting ready to tell you about won’t fix your guest artist or specific event photo issues, stock photos can help provide you with some generic photos for marketing that can make up for a lack of good photography available.

Whenever possible, I use a guest artist or specific concert shot for our concert marketing. But in its absence, I use stock photos to help tie with the theme of the concert. Here’s a photo I selected to use for our Beethoven’s 9th Masterworks concert earlier this season:

MW1 slider

Stock photos can be quite useful, and they come in different forms. I tend to use a paid stock photo site like istock.com or shutterstock.com. I like the ease of finding just the right photo by using their search features. I pay anywhere from $9-12 a photo, depending on how many credits I buy at one time. I estimate that I use about 6-12 stock photos a year in our marketing. For our 2015/16 season brochure, I wanted to focus on photos of Chattanooga. I was able to find several great shots by professional photographers of local landmarks. It was much simpler purchasing the rights to use these photos then sending a photographer or staff member out to the dozen or so places to get shots.

However, there are some free resources out there for stock photos if you have the time to search through them for that perfect shot. I found this list of 20 sites with free images on Inc.com. They focus on using them in blogs and social media, but most of these will have a high resolution option to download. I always download the highest resolution photo I can to use for print materials. You can always downsize them for online use.

This article also helps distinguish among the various copyright terms, such as public domain, royalty free, and creative commons licensing. If you’re involved in marketing or graphic design and haven’t studied up on this, now’s the time to get educated.

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About Samantha Teter

Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Executive Director Samantha Teter has over 15 years of experience in arts and non-profit marketing, public relations, and sales. She moved to the Chattanooga area in 2012 for the position of Director of Marketing with the CSO, and was promoted to Executive Director in 2016. She previously hailed from Denver, where she was Director of Marketing and Sales for the Colorado Symphony. Prior to that, she was Director of Marketing and PR for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic in Indiana. Other arts and non-profit experience includes Director of Marketing and Auditorium Events for the Scottish Rite Center in Fort Wayne and Marketing Specialist for Indiana Tech.

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