A guide to sourcing financial imagery

Financial Imagery

Sarah Sullivan


Posted on March 14, 2016

It only takes a quick search to bring up thousands of images on any subject imaginable. But despite how easy it is to do, saving and using an image you’ve found online without the owner’s permission is illegal. So when you need financial imagery, where should you go?

Often, the best option is to use an image library.

Finding an image library

There are an overwhelming number of image libraries out there. Finding the right image hidden within them can feel like an impossible quest, full of dead ends and frustration and an almighty input of time.

It makes it easier if you start in the right place, or at least as close as you can get.

We’ve put together a shortlist of some of the libraries we’ve used successfully in the past. The four major players have large databases which should significantly cut down on fruitless search time, but they do come with a price tag to match, so we’ve included some alternate options, too.

There are numerous free image libraries out there too, of course, which have their time and place, but it’s worth remembering that the cost reflects the quality of the images you’ll find. Good images aren’t free.

Here’s where we recommend you focus your efforts:

Our short list:

Sourcing Financial Imagery

* Figures valid 01/02/2016

Still a lot to choose from, we know. But when every project is different, there’s never going to be a one-size-fits-all library that will meet every need. Your best strategy is always to choose the library to fit the project, and that might mean looking at two or three.

To help you narrow things down, it’s worth bearing in mind the following considerations each time:


Just because an image library holds more images, it doesn’t mean they’re the best quality available. A lot depends on the photographers who upload their stock to the site and their level of skill, but it also depends on having a discerning eye yourself.

Our guide on how to pick stock imagery that looks great should help you spot what’s likely to work well, and help you avoid some common pitfalls.


It seems obvious, but it does get forgotten, so remind yourself: what’s the image for?

An image that’s suitable for the web is different to one suitable for advertising, print, large posters, corporate branding or even video. Check the resolution of the images on offer is appropriate for your needs: 72dpi (dots per inch) is fine for web, but you’ll need 300dpi or more for a good-quality print, and will probably have to pay more to obtain it.

What’s more, not all images in all libraries are licensed for all usages, so check that too, before you set your heart on something.


How much have you got to spend?

If you’ve got a bigger budget this time, maybe it’s worth investing in your images. How visible will they be? Imagery and colour have an enormous impact on our perception and judgements about a product or brand, and a bad image can stand out a mile. It’s rarely worth trying to cut corners, and a bit of extra investment might make all the difference.

Royalty free or rights-managed?

With Rights-managed images, the buyer pays a license fee for the usage, duration, distribution and audience size of the image you want to use. You’ll get a far more exclusive image, but it’s also likely to be more expensive.

Royalty free images, on the other hand, come with a one-off fee, paid by the buyer for unlimited use of the image. The drawback is, the library/photographer is allowed to sell the image multiple times to different buyers, so you can’t control where else it might be used.

An editorial use only license?

Depending on your intended usage, this type of license may be an option. It means an image can only be used for non-commercial purposes and as a descriptive visual reference e.g. of a particular person/place or event. You can use them in newspapers or articles, on a blog or non-commercial presentation, but these images cannot be used in advertising/marketing/promotional material/advertorials.

Search terms?

You’ll save yourself a lot of time if you know how to search for images well using keywords. Getty Images have produced an interactive keyword guide as well as a PDF version to help you get to grips with finding the perfect image more quickly.

Our summary

The demand for images online has never been greater, and competitive and niche platforms are springing up all the time. Quality can vary enormously, however, and it’s still very much a case of ‘you get what you pay for’.

The best approach is to choose the library to match your project and budget. Here’s a quick workflow to help.

  1. Using our shortlist, discover your preferred sites
  2. Use good search terms to find what you’re looking for
  3. Use discernment to whittle out those cliché images and check for suitability and quality
  4. Check the licensing and resolution match your project requirements
  5. Pay for the best you can afford