Professional Photography versus Stock Photos

Tips to help you decide

Most of the time, you get what you pay for in terms of quality… and good, unique stock images can be expensive while photography packages might surprise you! However, stock photography certainly has its place, so here are some tips from both sides to help you make an informed decision.

Tips for choosing stock images

  • Avoid clichés – you can stay within your target market’s expectations if this is more important to your brand than being outside of the box – but ‘typical’ images can be boring and look too set up
  • Avoid images you’ve seen before – chances are others have too. Overuse of images or image setups (e.g. the close up on a hand shake) makes these photos lose their impact
  • If you are using someone else’s photo, you should be paying for it. Careful not to break copyright laws by checking the stock image provider’s terms and conditions. Copying and pasting photos from other websites is an absolute no-no and if you are found to have done this the penalties can be heavy
  • The aim is to choose photos that don’t look like stock photos! A better alternative is to book a professional photo shoot…

What a professional photo shoot can give you that stock images can’t

  • Unique images that no-one else has. This could come down to the content or even the style – e.g. editorial (‘magazine’) style, creative and quirky, minimalist etc.
  • The option to use your own staff and workplace for the ‘stock’ photos, making it more ‘real’ and relevant
  • Your photographer might offer a wide selection of images, so more value
  • Better coherency with the rest of your website. Your photographer can help you put together a plan of what types of images will suit your website and marketing materials, or if you have a graphic designer on board, can work with them to maximise the design
  • You save time not having to trawl the internet for pictures that vaguely represent your message or brand
  • Your images might look more natural and culturally-appropriate if taken within a professional in the context of your business, your city, etc.
  • You can combine your personalised ‘stock’ photos with other photos: profile photos of your team, product shots, event shots etc. – often in a package offering great value for money. This means more aspects of your business are covered
  • A more professional, polished look to your profile and team photos. There is a reason website designers recommend their clients get professional photos taken.

What to look out for if you are choosing to book a photo shoot instead

  • Does the price quoted give you full rights to the images?
  • Have models signed a model release, so that you can use the images of them? Your photographer should be able to organise this (along with professional models or extras if you need)
  • Have you had the chance to clearly communicate all aspects you want photographed, so you have a selection you can play with on your website and marketing materials?
  • Do you feel a rapport with the photographer who will be taking photos of you and your team? This is important to get the best photos possible
  • Has the photographer given you tips on how to look your best in your photographs?

If you are unsure what would work best for your website, seek a consultation with a photographer, graphic designer or marketing expert to help you make a decision. It could be that you decide to go with a combination of stock images and professional photos that are tailored to your brand.

For more tips on the do’s and don’ts of photographs in marketing, read our article ‘Do your business photos need a reality check?’