3 Reasons Why You Should Pass On Stock Photography

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March 30, 2016
Jon Feagain Jon Feagain

Whether you’re creating a website, a brochure, or some other form of marketing collateral, you’re probably not thinking too hard about the images used to complement your words. After all, people are reading your material because they’re interested in your company and what you have to offer.  It’s the written content that really matters, right?



That’s only partially correct. The words on your page are important, but the images you use speak volumes, too. It's why many agencies choose to purchase stock images in the first place. What they don’t realize is that utilizing images that aren’t personal to the organization invariably acts to distance potential clients from the company instead of drawing them in.

1.  Whose vision are you promoting?

In an initial search of stock photography images, you may be tempted by the array of choices. Looking for the perfect image of an office receptionist doing her job? No problem. There are 8,473 images to chose from and all of them show a confident and smiling woman or man in a headset ready to take your call. It’s a welcoming image.

But what is that image really conveying? Is it showing your receptionist? Is it your lobby? Unless you’ve got an amazing doppleganger of the person in the image, we’re going to guess not. And if that’s the case, you’re not actually showing anyone how welcoming and ready for business you truly are. By using an image of an employee that isn’t yours, you’re giving up a chance to establish your brand and create a lasting connection.

More welcoming than any stock photo is an image of your reception desk, your employees, and your company. Make your brand as human as possible. Otherwise, you’re just showcasing someone else’s work, and while that’s great for the professional photographer who took the perfect studio image, it’s does nothing to illustrate what your brand stands for.


2.  The cost of doing business.

Stock photography is cheap, right? That all depends on how quickly you’ll settle for a photo that’s less than ideal because in order to find the “perfect” image, you’ll be scrolling through page after page of images for quite some time. (Remember those 8,473 images we mentioned in our first point?)

Once you start down the road of using stock photos, it becomes easier with every project to simply turn to the stock catalog and choose an image that works for you regardless of the fact that it doesn’t resonate with your potential clients. Plus, reusing a single stock photo in various pieces quickly gives it a stale feel and you’ll find that you’ll soon be prone to looking (and paying for) new images with each marketing piece you design.


The alternative, of course, is to capture your own images. Depending on your budget, that might mean hiring a professional photographer, but you don’t necessarily need a professional to get the job done. Digital cameras have come leagues since they were first introduced to the market and even the most novice of photography enthusiasts can take an excellent image with good lighting. The cost is considerably less in the long run.

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Ultimately, personalizing your photography gives you the chance to focus on what really matters to you, your organization, and your employees. Want to show that receptionist? Do so! But, show your receptionist at his or her desk. Show a genuine smiling employee who actually wants to assist your client, and that leads us to our third point.

3.  Where’s the connection?

If you’re using stock photography in your marketing pieces, now is a great time to ask yourself what your images convey to the viewer. The answer is simple. Nothing. Stock photography lacks connection, and that means every time you use an impersonal image, you’ve lost the opportunity to showcase your brand to the customer. Ultimately, stock photos can cost you thousands (or more!) in lost revenue.


In a webcam eye-tracking study performed for Facebook, EyeTrackShop determined that participants spent less time looking at posts and ads and more time looking at cover photos on brands’ timelines. Furthermore, photos with faces attracted the most attention. True for social media, but also true for any marketing piece whether paper or electronic. After all, if photos weren't important, there wouldn't be entire social media platforms dedicated to them at all.

Your customer will be looking at the photography you provide. By using photographs that have no personal meaning to your brand, you’re losing the opportunity to connect with the customer on a visual level. Entrepreneur says that the smartest businesses are those that employ images that help them evolve their brand and tell a visual story of who they are. That’s something that can’t be done with stock photography.

The Takeaway

Ultimately, your customers don’t want “ideal” images when they’re considering hiring your company or services. They want to see relatable photos that best represent the company. They’re in search of images that strategically convey your brand, illustrate why it’s right for them, and what your brand values above all else. Still planning to continue using stock photography now that you know the value of original branding photography? 

Remember this. Original photos are your chance to tell your story in all its high-def glory. By comparison, stock photos are the grainy black and white films from yesterday; the ability to tell the story is there, but the true color is missing.

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