Six reasons to use a specialist stock agency

Six reasons to use a specialist stock agency

Ikon Images

Here at Ikon, we specialise in the best, hand-picked stock illustrations to help you enhance your projects. And, while we aim to be your favourite specialist stock image agency, we’re not the only one.

stock image from Matt Lyon

Stock illustration credit Matt Lyon

You’re sure to be familiar with the well-known, larger and popular stock photo websites, such as Adobe Stock and Getty Images, with their vast collections. But did you know that there is also a rich ecosystem of small specialist stock libraries, museums and galleries, archives and press agencies, selling stock photos and adding value and expertise? In addition to our own curated collection of stock imagery, you will find niche collections as varied and eclectic as polar research, arms, and armour, and even volleyball.

Industry experts, unique images and some of the best customer service around: there are many reasons for picture buyers and editorial directors to check out a specialist stock image agency for your next project. Below, we delve into six of these reasons for buying and selling with a specialist image provider. And of course, we have some of our favourite stock illustrations from the Ikon library to go with, showcasing the strength and depth that specialist collections can add to any project.


stock image from Patrick George

Stock illustration credit Patrick George

stock image from Alice Mollon

Stock illustration credit Alice Mollon

From image curation to sales, a specialist stock agency is grounded in the expertise of their dedicated teams, after all, no one knows their collections better.

Agency teams love what they do and want to share that passion with you, the customer, helping you to find that perfect stock image whatever your project. The small size of most specialist agencies makes them agile, so most will be keen to do picture research for you when time is of the essence.

And, on the rare occasion they don’t know something about an image and its history, their direct relationship with contributors and artists means that they can easily find out.

Curated image collections

stock image from Sergio Ingravalle

Stock illustration credit Sergio Ingravalle

stock image from Gary Waters

Stock illustration credit Gary Waters

When deadlines are tight, nothing is more frustrating for a picture buyer than wading through tens of thousands of images of questionable relevance. A curated image collection lets you hone in on the right image quickly, saving you valuable time.

Unlike the typical stock photography agency, a specialist stock agency has the time and incentive to review all new content, ensuring greater relevance and consistency across image collections. In this dynamic environment that favours quality over quantity, there’s no place for weaker, less compelling images to hide.

The unique and direct relationships specialist agencies have with customers allows for users to inform and shape the collection, too. If there is a style or subject area in high demand, a small, specialist agency can respond to customers’ needs and focus future contributions to reflect this.

Unique images

stock image from Annalisa Grassano

Stock illustration credit Annalisa Grassano

stock illustration from Gary Waters

Stock illustration credit Gary Waters

You may feel like you’ve seen all of the images before, particularly if you've limited your search to royalty free stock photos. Well, the chances are, you probably have!

With nearly all the larger agencies offering non-exclusive, royalty free images, photographers and artists invariably place the same images with multiple agencies. Once purchased, these images can be used repeatedly in perpetuity, meaning one image could completely saturate the industry.

Small agencies, on the other hand, rather than offering a royalty free license, often have exclusive agreements with some of the best artists and photographers who value having their portfolios in one place. Using smaller stock photography sites means that you have access to the unique images they won’t find anywhere else, really helping you to stand out from the crowd.

And for those almost-perfect images, a specialist agency may be able to help, too. Bridging the gap between a full commission and stock, agencies can sometimes facilitate small tweaks to an image by the original artist for a fee. It can be a quick and inexpensive way of getting the perfect image, particularly for stock art and illustrations.

Rights managed

stock image from Nick Lowndes

Stock illustration credit Nick Lowndes

stock illustration from Alice Mollon

Stock illustration credit Alice Mollon

In the stock images world, most of the smaller agencies operate a rights-managed sales model. This means that the image price is not fixed to a particular file size but licences are tailored to an image’s intended use, making them both flexible and competitive.

In fact, many leading artists and photographers appreciate the equitable feel of the rights managed model. Therefore, specialist agencies that use this model have access to collections, artists, and photographers who you won’t find elsewhere.

A rights managed model also brings peace of mind for those times you need an image for a special position or for a high-profile client, as each image has a complete history of where it’s been used before. If you need an exclusive licence to ensure no competing uses are possible, this can be arranged, no problem.

Customer service

example of stock image from Eva Bee

Stock illustration credit Eva Bee

stock image from Thomas Kuhlenbeck

Stock illustration credit Thomas Kuhlenbeck

With specialist agencies, it’s personal. Founders and staff remain hands on, engaged and motivated to do the best for their clients; it’s why they’re there after all.

Chances are each time you call or email you’ll be speaking or connecting with the same member of the team. Someone who will come to understand your needs and be willing to go the extra distance to ensure you have the best image at the best possible price.

Unlike with a larger stock photo site, the experts at a smaller stock image agency will work closely with you to ensure that the images purchased with your credit pack meet your needs.

Feel-good factor

stock image from Eva Bee

Stock illustration credit Eva Bee

stock image from Grundini

Stock illustration credit Grundini

We all know how hard it can be working in the creative industry - especially during lean times - but by supporting a specialist agency, you are ensuring creatives are fairly compensated for their work.

You are also supporting small businesses who really value you as a customer, with each sale making the sales team do a little happy dance (at least here at Ikon - other agencies may do a fist pump, high five or cheer).

Not only is working with a specialist image agency a smart decision, but it’s one you can feel good about, too.

The ability to get quickly and easily some of the best and unique stock images, hand-picked by industry experts for your project, what’s not to love about using a specialist stock agency?

You already know where to find us but check out these listings for other specialist agencies below:



Stock Photography Direct
Photo Archive News


Coordination of European Picture Agencies Stock, Press and Heritage (CEPIC)

Finding the perfect stock images for your next project is an important task, and one which you should consult with an industry expert on – particularly if you want to stand out from the crowd.

When you choose to work with a specialist stock agency such as ourselves, rather than traditional stock photos agencies, you'll get advice from seasoned professionals with years of industry experience to help you pick the perfect pictures.

Discover our wide range of stock illustrations today or contact us for more information.

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