What Is a Stock Photo?

Stock photography can be found in many places. From the generic images on your morning box of cereal to the flowery ads in the magazine on your coffee table, stock images bring life to advertisements, packaging and even text books. Created by amateur and professional photographers, stock images are often the extra frames from a previous photography assignment that are sold to stock-photo agencies.


Stock photography can include any subject matter, but the more conceptual and vague the image, the better it will sell as a stock image. People engaging in routine activities, close-up photographs of objects, technology and money are very popular subject matters for stock photography.


Stock images that sell well are executed with a professional touch. Images of people use models. The lighting is controlled in a studio, and stylists make sure foods, objects and locations are clean and perfect representations of the subject matter.


Stock photos can help illustrate concepts. They bring a visual element to written materials and draw attention to products.


Stock photography is not royalty-free. Just because an image may be visible on the Internet or in a text book doesn't mean you can copy it and reproduce it at will. Copyright laws pertain to stock photography.


Stock photography is often sold on stock-photography websites, by photo agencies or by private photographers. For a fee, certain rights will be sold with the image. One-time publishing rights and lifetime usage are common levels of rights that may be granted.