Stock photos (stock photography) are professional photographs of common places, landmarks, nature, events or people that are bought and sold on a royalty-free basis and can be used and reused for commercial design purposes. The photographer (or stock photography distributor) has ownership to the images, and the commercial designer has some limited usage of the photo (which is set out in the Terms of Service by the company you purchase the stock photos from). Some conditions of use may include things such as use of the images is licensed, not sold or in case of a stock photo being used in a magazine there may be a maximum number of copies of the image allowed to be printed under the agreement. Terms of Service policies will differ between stock photography distributors.
Stock photography is a cost-effective method for designers to obtain professional photos and images without the costs of hiring a photographer directly. Stock photos and stock photography refer to the images purchased under this distribution method and may be photos, computer generated graphics, clip-art, vectors, and other form of imagery. Today stock photos can be purchased through a subscription and downloaded from a stock photography distributor's Web site or purchased as a CD-ROM collection.