I have read articles in photography magazines that pro photographers are getting more and more into stock photography since the economic downturn. I am copying and pasting an article that I read in one of my trade magazines. This article is about how people can get free photos from online stock photos. The economy was in a down turn for 2008. The holiday season for purchases has passed. That cold winter chill outside is probably also being felt in your sales. Are you looking for something cheap (or possibly even free) that can be used to liven up your business? These websites include free or very cost-effective images and illustratins that, when used properly to decorate your products, can help to brighten up sales. When the term "stock" is used here, we are referring to rights-free or rights-managed imagery. This can include illustration or photography. Rights-free or royalty-free is roughly defined to mean that you are not the only one who has use of this photo. These are much lower in cost than a rights-managed image. There is a possibility of seeing the same image on a sample coaster in your showroom that is on an advertisement for another company or service. Rights managed has a higher purchase price yet the chances of seeing the image used elsewhere is very small. The prices usually differ with how you are going to use the image. Prices can range from $250 up to multiple thousands. I can count the times that I've seen good products with terrible-quality images used on the piece. The product becomes undesirable immediately. A serving tray with an image that looks like the image has been pulled from online that has been enlarged so many times I could almost count the pixels. Or a family photo that has terrible lighting sublimated onto a nice keepsake box. It's hard to ask customers to look past that and focus on the product you are actually selling. We all know that a better-quality image or design makes any product more attractive. Use the images from these websites to create samples of products that you would like to offer to customers. Decorated items always appeal more to people than a non-decorated blank piece. This can give you an opportunity to focus more on customer service and less on time. Think of the hours (and frustration) you'll save when you don't have to clean up a so-so image to showcase your products. Also consider purchasing some images to offer as designs for resell. Allowing a customer to pick out an already-established design is another way to fulfill their purchasing needs. These websites offer high resolution photographs and illustrations at little to no cost. Stock.xchng (www.sxc.hu) is one of the most popular (and well rounded) free stock websites. Type in the word 'family' in the search bar and you'll discover 50 pages of easy-to-sort through files. The website Free Large Photos (www.freelargephotos.com) contains photographs only and no illustrations. The photo topics mainly include the outdoors, whether nature (waterfalls, birds etc.) or architecture. The home page lists topics alphabetically, including by place. Stock Vault (www.stockvault.net) offers photographs and 3D renderings. Items are arranged by category and sub-category on the left side. The last free website is Free Digital Photos (www.freedigitalphotos.net). The offerings are organized similar to Stock Vault, with a category menu on the left-hand side. The images are free to download for a small low-resolution file, but go up to $10 for a high-resolution print version. StockXpert (www.stockxpert.com) includes photos and illustrations available for purchase in prices ranging from $1 up to $10. Only if you are pressing large-format images (think larger than 11x17) do you need the extra-large ten dollar file. Dreamstime (www.dreamstime.com) offers both illustration and photography. They even have a 'free images' section on their website. This website works by purchasing credits and then using those credits to buy images. Prices vary depending on size and popularity of an image. Cheap Stock Photos (www.cheapstockphotos.com) is priced roughly $1, $3 and $5. StockVault and Cheap Stock Photos have the same search page layout but different offerings. Fotolia (www.fotolia.com) offers images in sizes extra small, small and medium for costs from $1 to $3. You can also purchase a subscription for $200 a month. For the majority reading this, a subscription is not the most cost-effective option. They offer great images at the right price for retailers who focus on smaller 'desktop' products like coasters and picture panels or frames. The agreement gives you a non-exclusive, non-transferable license to use the image. This means that you are not the only one allowed access to this image for use and that you understand you cannot transfer your downloaded versions of the image to another person. These permissions (what you can, can't, should or shouldn't do) are fairly general on a majority of the websites. Always check the rules and regulations for using images (usually on FAQ page). When in doubt, send an email and ask. Images can be used in digital format on websites and multimedia presentations. Usually you can use the image in printed and promotional materials, magazins, newspapers, brochures, flycers, CD/DVD covers, etc. It is standard to allow decorating your home, your office or any public place. These images are great for creating samples to showcase online or in your retail environment. Present to your customers how great your stuff can be, the wide range of interests your products can meet. Think of how paint companies show thier colors. They don't show a white room, they present a basic idea to the customers that allow them to see how they customize the 'canvas' to fit their needs. Sublimation blank products should be thought of in much the same way. Typically, the images may not be used for pornographic, unlawful or other immoral purposes, for spreading hate or discrimination, or to defame or victimize other people, societies, cultures. Don't use the images in a way that can give a bad name to the website or the person(s) depicted on the image. For more details, please review the contract purchase terms for the website being considered for use. Contact the photographer if you feel this is an image that you will want to use on multiple items for resell. You'll find a lot of photographers willing to work with you and excited about someone seeing potential in their work. If an image seems perfect for use on multiple items that you will sell productions of, invest in it. It'll be worth more than your purchase price (which maybe only be $100 for unlimited reproduction use) when it comes to bringing in new business. The opportunity to use not only better images but also a wider range on sublimatable products will allow your service offerings to be better highlighted for current and potential customers to feel more comfortable making a purchases when times are still tight on everyone's wallet. Use these images to create decorated samples for tradeshows, promotional pieces (or as a leave-behind piece at a big meeting), showrooms or your website to represent your company to potential customers. The best way to sell your products is to show how great they can be. A long read I know. Thoughts?