There’s a common conversation that happens in the creative industry between agencies and their clients around the use of stock photography versus shooting originals. It can be summed up like this: “Photoshoots are expensive. Right? I can get stock photos for free.”
I know it sounds cliché but it’s true— there is no such thing as free. You can read my blog on The Trend Away from Stock Photography for a deeper‐dive on the subject. In short, all stock photography sites charge either a subscription fee or fee per image, not to mention the other costs associated with how using stock can impact your brand. Whether you buy the image or your agency buys it, there are real costs attached.
Consider the big picture before leaping to conclusions
Let’s assume you found an image that represents your brand accurately. What if you need several images? What are the odds you will find enough images that are ‘perfect’? Or, what if you find photos that are an OK match for your content? ‘What’s’ are the odds your competition thinks the same image is perfect for their content too? Trust me, it happens enough in the marketing industry. Some of the biggest brands in the world have been embarrassed by choosing the same stock image used by a competitor or other organization in their space. In the end, there are valid reasons to use stock photography, you just have to consider the potential risks.
We find we can often help clients choose between stock and original photography by asking a few questions. How important is it for them to showcase their products, people, services or facilities in a realistic way? What premium do they—or their client’s—place on brand authenticity and trust? When they look at it from these angles, investing in a library of original photography that they can own outright offers a lot more value than stock.
Economies of scale
This takes us back to that opening statement: “Photoshoots are expensive. Right?” Not so fast, it depends on the scope or the exercise. Since we charge half and full day rates (please contact us for pricing), the cost per image can work out to be quite inexpensive relative to some stock. Variables that affect price up and down include the complexity of the shoot or location, travel or specialized equipment expenses. In most cases, certainly for local shoots, we travel light and are in and out in half a day.
Take a recent location shoot we did for an Ottawa‐based law firm. We were on location for roughly 2 hours and needed no specialized equipment or lighting. In the end, we delivered a library of over a dozen high‐quality images. The investment per image was quite low but the intrinsic value to our client was priceless. Now, when their clients and prospects arrive at their website, they’ll get a true picture of the firm and their brand. This creates trust and as research suggests, using actual images featuring their place of business will have a greater likelihood of converting website visitors into clients.
A sample of the image library created by Accurate for an Ottawa‐based law firm
On a slightly larger scale, we spent a half day shooting at a local manufacturing facility outside of Ottawa. With time and travel, it worked out to a full day rate. However, like the law firm, the ultimate investment per image was quite low. We delivered a library of dozens of high‐quality photos, but more importantly, an invaluable marketing resource for the company. Their website and additional marketing collateral now showcase their facility, products, and processes in a way that stock photography could never do.
A sample of the image library created by Accurate for a local area manufacturer
At the other end of the scale, we recently spent several days shooting at multiple locations around Ontario for the Federal Bridge Corporation capturing photos and drone video footage of four bridge structures. The overall budget included a total of six days of shooting and associated travel expenses. However, we delivered a catalogue of 100s of high‐quality images and dozens of high‐definition videos to our client. Again, the investment per image and video was quite low, but the associated marketing and communications value was priceless.
A sample of the extensive library Accurate created for the Federal Bridge Corporation.
Planning saves time and budget
As the old adage goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” In the photography and videography world that translates to, “If you fail to plan, you’ll get fewer shots”. It just makes good economic sense to allocate a small portion of your budget for planning or scouting location(s) in advance, particularly for complicated projects. This small step pays big returns when we’re on location. We know the shots we want in advance of the shoot and the net result is typically a larger volume of photos taken in a shorter amount of time.
Weather can also play a factor in planning. If your business is exclusively indoors, no problem—we can shoot any time of the day or year. But if you run a landscaping business, it’s safe to assume you want to photograph your projects during warm, snow‐free summer months. Thinking months ahead gives us all a target to work toward and time to prepare. The payoff for you is lower costs because we can get everything we need in the scheduled visit rather than making multiple trips.
What’s the common outcome of the projects featured above? A combination of forward‐thinking clients, planning and our talented photographers have created extensive photo libraries. But more importantly, each client received a great return on investment in their brands at very affordable prices.
If you’d like to invest in showcasing what makes your business or organization unique, contact us for an original photography quote.