The Hidden Cost of Free Stock Photos

Lists of free stock photo sites are always a popular resource. I've posted a pretty decent list of sites myself and Graphics N Graphic Design recently posted about the most comprehensive list of free sites I've seen.

However, although the photos on these sites won't cost you any money, they do come with a big hidden cost - your time.

It's easy to spend hours surfing around the web looking for that perfect photo without having to pay for it. But what is that costing you in terms of the time you could be spending doing something else? Something profitable, even.

An hour spent writing content for your site, improving your site design, or driving traffic to your site is likely to be a far most cost effective use of your time than trying to save a few dollars by searching all over for a free photo.

As far as I'm concerned, time is the resource of which I have the least. That's why when I need stock photography I might check one free site such as stock.xchng before falling back on the larger of the cheap stock photo sites like iStockphoto.

These 'photo community' sites, as they are known, offer a selection and quality of photos that cannot be equalled by 99% of the free photo sites. With downloads ranging from $1-3 on average, is it really worth going anywhere else? I, for one, get pretty much all I need from iStockphoto.

As for searching through Flickr for free photos, it's hard enough to actually find a photo you'd want to use. But then you have to check the Creative Commons license to see if you are allowed to use it? I mean, come on - this is a really poor way of finding photos.

So, do yourself a favor. Clear out that huge list of free stock photo bookmarks and just keep your top five free or cheap sites. The time you save will be well worth any extra money you have to pay in download fees.

Posted on: January 20, 2006 | No comments

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