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Twelve talented designers show us what can be created using royalty-free stock photography.

Let’s face it, royalty-free stock photos get a bum wrap. And in the past, this was mostly true because royalty-free stock images were generally very poor in quality and there wasn’t a large selection to choose from so the same images would be seen over and over again.

Over the years though, stock image collections have greatly improved — to the point where professional photographers upload and sell their photographs on stock photography websites as an additional source of income.

But as many designers can attest, it’s not the image that makes a great design, but how a designer works with that image (or multiple images) to create something fresh and creative.

The following 12 creative examples where found during a search through 8,016 of the current 25,680 samples on the iStockphoto Design Spotlight. Given the immense design options to choose from, I used the following criteria to make my selections.

  • The design had to instantly grab my attention.
  • The design was created for printed marketing materials (not just art)
  • I stayed away from selecting website designs because it’s just too easy to create something really cool
  • The design had to use more than two stock images. This helps showcase the designer’s skill as opposed to just dropping a stock image or graphic into a design.
  • The design showed exceptional skill in merging/combining images

Credits provided to each designer so you can see more of their work.

12 Creative Designs Using Stock Images

Stripped by Jordan Seth

“Stripped” by Jordan Seth

Jeff Struecker Black Hawk Down

“Black Hawk Down” by Jeff Struecker

Info Media Cover Design

“Info Media Cover” by erizojr

The Queen of Screams by 2113graphics

“The Queen of Screams” by 2113graphics

Cinema on the Green by Swivelhead_Design

“Cinema on the Green” by Swivelhead_Design

Champion Yorkshire Terrier by Willard

“Champion Yorkshire Terrier” by Willard

Cinco de Mayo by Clubnrg11

“Cinco de Mayo” by Clubnrg11

Just One More Day by ridekrisride

“Just One More Day” by ridekrisride

Inside Africa by ridekrisride

“Inside Africa” by ridekrisride

I'm Not a Bitch by c2bjin

“I’m Not a Bitch” by c2bjin

Lone Wolves by ApplePizza

“Lone Wolves” by ApplePizza

Wicked at Granby Theater by branfyDjohnson

“Wicked at Granby Theater” by branfyDjohnson

Drop a comment below to let me know your favorite or to suggest a different design you think should be listed here.

We’ve also created a list of free stock photo resources.