Buying Photos for a Project
There are many places that offer stock photography for sale, however the rights that you purchase and the acceptable uses for each will be specific to the company or person selling you the rights. It is very important to obtain permission or purchase usage rights for photographs prior to using them in any material. These days, there a lot of photographs on the Internet posted for all web browsers to see. However, even these photos are copyrighted and may not be downloaded and used without permission. Many printers will require a photographer's signed permission or statement of limited use before printing your pieces.
If you don't have any photos to use for a specific project, you can opt to purchase stock photography or hire someone to take custom photos. When browsing stock photography websites, it is a good idea to see what the costs are, what usage rights you would be purchasing, and what the limitations are for that cost. Some sites will show you how popular a photograph is (i.e. how many times it has been downloaded). This is important to look at because if it is an industry specific photo and has been downloaded quite a bit, the odds of it showing up in your competitor's materials may be higher. You definitely don't want to use the same exact photos that your closest competitors are using. Be sure to purchase the photo at the appropriate size for your project. Usually costs vary according to photograph size.
For non-profit organizations, there are various sources of photos. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, Calphotos, NRCS, and many other organizations host online photo directories that allow use of their photos for non-profit educational purposes as long as photo credit is given to the photographer. In addition, many professional and amateur photographers will give permission to non-profit, educational institutions for the one-time use of their photo (with a photo credit line).
Custom photography is probably the most expensive option, but if you need a specific shot and want it to look very good, this may be the best choice for you. The more prepared you and the photographer are, the less expensive it will be. Have specific ideas for shots in mind that you discuss with your photographer long before setting up the shoot. If you are using models, don't forget the model release form.
Photographs add so much interest and visual appeal to print and web materials, it is often an important component to have. However, don't go overboard either. A good balance between text and images can make your materials really work well for your business or organization.