Photos: Stock or Not?

We all need stock photos for projects every now and then. Most of the time we’re forced to turn to places like iStockPhoto, GettyImages, ShutterStock, etc. But why?

Well, we know that when we pay for a license to use those pictures, it’s all legit, right? We can use that image for just about anything without fear of legal retribution. So why don’t we use sites like stock.xchng more often? Well, those images are covered by an image license that is a bit more restrictive that you get when you purchase royalty-free images. From stock.xchng’s Image License Agreement, you can’t use the images for endorsement of a product or service if the image depicts a person, if your to-be-completed work is pornographic, or without the permission of the photographer for anything which may directly or indirectly lead to monetary gain by the designer.

So, to make a long story short, if you want a free image you might have to pay MUCH more for later, these freebie sites are great. If you want an image you pay a small fee for and can use without worry, go for the paid sites. If I use stock photos from these free sites, it is merely to demonstrate the final design, and never in the production design. There’s just too much to worry about.

What’s your take? Should we avoid these free sites altogether, or do they serve a useful purpose in the everyday life of a designer/developer?