Printing and Design Tips: April 2010, Issue #105

Worldwide Increase In Display Graphics

I recently read an affirming notice regarding the future of printing in the 3rd quarter 2009 issue of the SGIA Journal (Specialty Graphic Imaging Association):

"During the past three years alone, the market for digitally-printed display graphics has experienced a worldwide compound annual growth rate of 11 percent."

This quote reflects the growing segmentation within the printing field. Some projects are best suited to digital printing (short runs of small jobs and versioned runs of variable-data jobs); some are better suited to large-format printing (like building wraps and vehicle wraps); and some are more useful when provided on the Internet (such as a searchable parts catalog for an automotive supply vendor). Wisdom is choosing the right tool for the job.

Perhaps the future of print will be a multi-faceted collage of communication technologies, whereby display graphics will be the hook that grabs viewer attention. Just a thought.

Royalty-Free vs Rights Managed Photos

If you are a graphic designer, you probably have needed photos from time to time for your marketing materials, book covers, or web designs. If you want to make sure your images are unique, your best option is to commission original photography. It is also your most expensive choice.

Two other avenues to consider are "rights managed" and "royalty free" imagery. Access to either can easily be found on the Internet, and photos can be immediately downloaded for use in your design work.

Royalty-free images are the cheaper option, and you can use them in multiple ways: on covers of books, in promotional materials used to sell the books, even on mugs and t-shirts. There's a lot of flexibility. You only pay once. The price is reasonable. As long as you're the one using the image, you can pretty much do as you wish. Most royalty-free rights agreements will allow unlimited and unrestricted usage within a print job or promotional campaign (both print and on-line). And you can alter, modify, and adjust the image without penalty (within reason).

Unfortunately, anyone else can buy the rights to use the same image. If the image is part of your visual branding campaign, that can be a problem. It can dilute your brand at best, and create general amusement at worst (which can ruin your promotional campaign).

An alternative to both originally commissioned photography and royalty free imagery is rights managed photography. Basically, you pay less than the former and more than the latter. For this usage fee you get access to a more limited distribution. The photographer makes more money on fewer users, and you have less of a likelihood of conflicts (others using the same image). At the very least, the photographer knows who is using the imagery and can pinpoint gross conflicts of interest.

For this added exclusivity, rights managed photography comes with stipulations. You cannot use the images just anywhere or any number of times. You must provide answers to the following questions, at a minimum:

  1. Will the image be used on a book cover or within the text?
  2. Will the image also be printed on promotional materials used to sell the original book?
  3. Will the photo usage be editorial or promotional in nature?
  4. How many copies will be printed of each usage of the image?
  5. Will the photo be used as a full-page image or a partial page image?
  6. When will the photos be used (unlike royalty free imagery, rights managed permissions contracts are not unlimited in duration).

Basically, the price goes up as the use of the image becomes more prominent. You pay a premium for the exclusivity of the photo usage, for the extent of its distribution, and for its prominence. In exchange for this fee, you have less likelihood of an �oops� moment of seeing your competitors using the same image.

To put all of this in perspective financially, if an originally commissioned photo costs thousands of dollars (or more), including your photographer's time, expenses, etc., then rights managed photos might cost multiple hundreds of dollars to a thousand dollars (depending on the number of uses and kinds of uses). On the other hand, royalty free images could start at a few dollars for a CD full of photos. These of course would be the lower quality images, the generic photos that really aren't that useful. But for a quick flyer that you plan to print on a copier, they could do the trick.

A step above this would be an image purchased from a reputable on-line photo image bank. A Google search will yield ten or more photo banks to approach. For a high resolution photo of sufficient quality for use on a large brochure cover, a good price might be $200.00+. Smaller images will cost less, and images to be used on the Web (72dpi images for Internet posting) will cost even less than that.

Basically, you get what you pay for, and these three venues provide viable options at a wide range of prices. Keep in mind that not every job requires premium photography.

The main thing to remember is to read the (usage, or rights, or permissions) contract. You are not buying the photo; you are simply buying the right to use the particular photo for a particular duration of time in particular ways. Know your rights and your responsibilities within this agreement. And always give written credit to the photographer. The rights agreement will tell you how.

[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]