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A stock photo is an electronic photograph used for creative or business purposes in lieu of hiring a photographer for a given project. Users retrieve stock photos from stock photo websites, which often license images for designated one-time uses, or sell royalty-free rights to photos that can be purchased once and used repeatedly.
Stock photos are shot by professional or semiprofessional photographers and are usually contained in searchable databases. Stock photo agencies purchase stock photos from private photographers, typically on a contractual basis. Microstock photography services offer a less expensive type of stock photo, but they must be purchased in large volumes and they are always royalty free. Stock photo agencies that offer lower resolution photographs for free in exchange for advertising also exist.
The stock photo industry has been turned upside down as a result of the Internet. It used to be that only large news organizations could afford to purchase photos from a small number of stock photo companies. After the Internet lowered the barrier to entry, the dynamics of the business were changed completely.