As students of Design most of you are aware of plagiarism and how serious it is in our profession. I would like to think all of you are honest and ethical designers who would never take credit for someone else’s work. Using stock photography and clip art is not plagiarism. It is a common practice in the industry to use stock photography and art to save money or time or both. As a student it can often help take your work to a higher level and turn those student projects into professional quality portfolio pieces. At this point I know what your thinking, what’s the problem. Well, with stock photography and illustration, there is a little problem with ownership and originality. Let me explain what I mean about ownership. I’m not talking about actual ownership or purchased use, I’m talking about the perception that the student or designer created the art or shot the photograph, giving the illusion that they have skills that they might not have. As far as originality, I think everyone is aware that stock images, depending on their popularity, might be seen in a variety of places and applications. For student use, you want to be careful that the image is not the concept and it only enhances the concept. You should also be careful about the familiarity and previous use of your chosen images. You wouldn’t want that great portfolio piece to be recognized by a common stock image and worse yet confused for plagiarism.
Here is a little trick that you can use to research the use of stock images. I would recommend that you use this to check the background of each of your images. First, this method works off of Google Image Search, so it helps if you have a gmail account. Start by opening your Google account. In the upper right corner click Images. When the search image opens, click the camera icon in the search bar. Drag and drop an image into the search window. I chose this stock image from iStock for this demonstration. The image search will show you all usage of this image and similar images. This way you can check how many times the image was used and how similar the usage was to your concept/solution. In this case I found five different national uses.