Any business owner, whether it be product or service, will have to make marketing decisions along the way in order to grow their business. One of those choices will be about the imagery you use, that is where you will be posed with the decision of picking between stock or original photography. Ultimately, all businesses are different and as such have different needs and incentives, so the final decision is yours to make based on what is best for you. Nevertheless, there are pro’s and con’s to both which we will delve into today! So, here goes…
First, we will consider stock photography. One of stock photography’s biggest selling points is that if you know exactly what you want, it can be a great time saver. It’s great in a pinch for the same reasons, it is instantly ready to use so if you need an image last minute for a presentation, stock photography might just be what you are looking for. Another great thing about stock photography is that you can do quite a lot with very little, but this does require some creative skills from the user. This can ultimately save some money as stock photography is typically cheaper than a session with a photographer. You can also make a new business look very legit with stock photography… however I would certainly be careful with doing this as maintaining trust is very important when marketing your business.
Unfortunately, there are also some cons to using stock photography that you may not have considered. One of the biggest cons to stock photography is that you should absolutely do some research into the images that you use. At the end of the day all kinds of companies with different agendas have access to the same pool of photographs, and the last thing that you want is your company’s imagery to be negatively associated with something else beyond your control. Always do some simple checks to see who else may be using the image, and also, check that your competitors are not using the images either! If you think you have found a great stock image and want to have a little more ownership of it, check out the licensing options, there may be something you can do to minimise usage. And, another option on a budget in order to make stock photography more unique and individual to your business is to play around with editing. Another thing to consider is that stock photography is typically quite easy to identify. It has lots of visual cues in it that let us know that it is in fact stock imagery. We, as humans are pretty good at reading these cues and figuring out what is stock and what is original. Something to consider in this regard is that, number one, your customers will probably know when you are using stock photography so ask yourself if that matters to your business, and number two, in the same way that your eyes learn to ignore adverts the visual cues in stock photography mean that your eyes feel like they don’t really need to look. This is really the opposite of having captivating visual content. The aim should always be to draw the viewer in with visual stimulus in order to communicate a message or story, not to trigger a response in the viewer that will ultimately drive the customer away.
Next up is original photography.
With original photography, its biggest selling point by far is that it is completely unique and tailored to your business. Original photography can be utilised perfectly for sharing your businesses personal story and brand message, and it means you are able to really consider the influence that your visual media will have on your customers. One obvious pro for original photography is that it is content completely tailored and created for your specific business. This means that no other company will be using it, it is completely yours! Another benefit of sharing your businesses story in an original way is that in doing so you create a special connection with your audience. Personal and original branding really helps when trying to build trust and promote authenticity with your customer base. As we mentioned above, stock photography is generally pretty easy to spot and can make your business come across a bit face-less. Most great businesses endorse themselves with a massage of transparency, authenticity and personality which ideally should transcend into everything your business puts out, especially its visual content! Sometimes a business will opt for stock imagery over original photography because they believe it brings a professional and cohesive look to their website. Whilst it is true that stock photography will always look very technically correct and professional, it will always look a little detached from reality for the same reasons, ultimately, people who look like real people are the people that we relate to, especially as a customer of a product or service. It is also reassuring to know that real people are behind the work!
So, here is the breakdown. If you absolutely must use stock photography, then always do your research prior to using the images. This means making sure it is not already used in relation to any message that could be damaging to your business. Also, make sure that the imagery you choose is on brand and correlates to the rest of your marketing material, it should never look out of place. If you are a small business on a budget or with time constraints, then a great middle ground is to take your own photographs. You don’t need much to get started, most smart phone cameras will do the trick or ask around and see if you are able to borrow a DSLR. You could even reach out to local colleges or universities; students are usually happy for the experience! This way you can create budget friendly original tailored photography. But it goes without saying. Original photography done by a professional photographer takes the cake. It is the only way that you get to own and dictate the usage of the photographs, tailor them specifically for your own business, put out completely honest and on brand content and include real people and things from your own business! Top Tips
- Avoid confusion by sticking to one or the other, you don’t want your photographs to be mistaken as stock and vice versa. This maintains trust. - Definitely avoid stock photographs if you are a business in the creative sector as this undermines your businesses skillset. - If budget really is an issue, why not give it a go yourself? You can spend hours looking for a photograph only to realise you have direct access to that thing yourself.