Royalty-free images and their abuse by advertising agencies in Kuwait

Focus Nov 2004156

Focus Nov 2004157

Published in Focus Middl East Marketing Intelligence Report.  November 2004. Pages: 16 – 17.

Stock photography consists of existing photographs that can be licensed for specific uses. Publishers, advertising agencies, graphic artists, and others use stock photography to fulfill the needs of their creative assignments.

A customer who uses stock photography instead of hiring a photographer can save time and money, but can also sacrifice creative control. – Wikipedia


Royalty free images are like a dual edged sword; I will share with you some of my thoughts on the subject if you promise not to take it personally.

What are Royalty Free images?

Royalty free images are footage, photos and illustrations produced by professionals to cater to the needs of the advertising industry; they cover plethora of subjects such as Abstracts & backgrounds, Agriculture, Business & industry, Education, Finance & commerce, Food & beverage, Kids & families, Lifestyle & culture, Medical & health care, Religion, myth & fantasy, Retro, Science & technology, Social issues & government, Travel & transportation, Wildlife & animals just to name a few.

Are Royalty free images free of charge?

Royalty-free images does not mean that you can use the images for free it means you pay only once for an image and its license and from then on it can be used repeatedly for multiple projects over an unlimited period of time when and where you want their by reducing time and worry about re-licensing when you alter your plans. Do you know of any professional that would give out his work for free? Would you give out your work free of charge? Then you shouldn’t be surprised that professional illustrators and photographers also expect to get compensation for their work.

Are royalty free images CD’s expensive?

Although prices vary dramatically from one vendor to another depending on the quality of the images, the number of images and their file size on each royalty free CD; but they are inexpensive compared to royalty managed images or commissioned photography since for the price of about two images you can get 50, 75, 100 or more images on a single royalty free CD that you can purchase for approximately 55KD.

Why are Royalty free images convenient?

They offer the greatest choice, flexibility and value, providing the imagery needed to tackle project after project with file sizes of a single image reaching up to 48mb these royalty free CD’s bring you more options not only in which images to use, but how you can use them in addition pricing is straightforward and provided upfront, so there’s no negotiating or haggling. And the simple terms and conditions of the license help make image decisions fast and friction-free.

When should royalty free images be used?

In my opinion the use of stock photograph (royalty free/royalty managed) is applicable in the following situations:

    • When the stock photo is a secondary, supporting or complementary element of the design; not when the stock photo is the main focal point, visual or “idea”.
    • When the “big idea” can not be executed in any different way other than the use of photography. (Illustration, calligraphy, etc.)
    • When the shot required for the concept can not be taken locally. (i.e. a blue whale leaping from the cold waters of the North Pole while penguins are standing on an ice berg close by).
    • When the client can not afford professional photography and the agency can not afford a digital camera.
    • When faced with a ridiculously short deadline (client wants it last year).

Which type of client is best suited to use royalty free images?

Clients who approve of their agency using royalty free images as the main focal point, visual or “idea” in their marketing communication message are probably cost conscious small privately owned “me too” business or at best they are “market followers” who are Ignorant of the importance of “image” and “differentiation” in their marketing communication message; they are the opposite of the Image conscious “market leaders” and “market challengers” who believe in the value of “brand equity” and are experts in building image through graphic design as a business strategy.

Why are Royalty free images extremely popular in Kuwait?

  • Inexpensive

Royalty free CD’s can be purchased from Hawally for one KD only and at these prices you can be sure that you are purchasing illegal pirated copies which deprive the professional creator of the CD from earning a decent living and the opportunity to continue producing great work that can be used by professionals in the advertising industry. In fact they are literally for free as “some” art directors struggling to keep their jobs give copies or swap them with “some” creative directors desperate for a raise.

  • Improve profitability

Since the images where obtained for one KD only (if not for free) “Some” agencies do turn around and charge their client extensively for those images claiming those images were purchased or that they hired a professional photographer to take these shots especially for him.

  • Improve market share

“Some” agencies thanks to “pirated” royalty free images can now afford to gain market share by offering free “art work” (remember no professional gives their work for free) coupled with a generous discount on media space and time buying.

  • Reduce overheads

Start up agencies (as well as agencies that have been around in Kuwait for as long as I can remember) now operate more cost effectively without expensive creative directors and art directors as they were replaced by much cheaper (sometimes better) royalty free CD libraries as a source of ideas that are conveniently ready to use.

  • Improve time management

Thanks to royalty free images; “some” art directors and creative directors are now managing to have more time to surf the world wide web and check their personal e-mails during official working hours than ever before instead of managing time to take the shot from the best angle suited for their concept (with the digital camera they nagged management to purchase for so long).

A wise man once said

When it comes to royalty free images ask for proof of purchase and a copy of the license agreement for royalty managed images so that you don’t run the risk of legal trouble which could damage the image of your business. Better yet (since you are image conscious) ask your agency to commission a professional photographer to get you that unique shot that is exclusively yours and helps your business marketing communication message stand out in today’s cluttered media scene. Or use a royalty managed stock library.

4 thoughts on “Royalty-free images and their abuse by advertising agencies in Kuwait”

  1. you said ” Royalty free CD’s can be purchased from Hawally for one KD only ”
    Can you please tell exactly where in Hawally did you purchased a Royalty free Photo CD for KD1? I am planning to buy maybe 20 pcs and i hope i can get a discount.

  2. Ron, I did not say that I (or anyone at Paragon) have bought any CD’s for 1KD I just highlighted the fact that they are available in Hawally Ibn Khaldon St. in most of the computer outlets which sell pirated software including games, stock images, operating systems, etc.

  3. Now no need of English for free images on internet. Press in address the bar, any three buttons twice, which are together, on keyboard in ‘C’ shape. E.g. rrddcc and Ctrl+Enter (together). New invention of http://Atoall.com is working from whole keyboard in C shape, for different – different images. Google.com

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