We live in visual times where people are drawn in by images more than words. Social media posts, web pages, publications of any type—they all capture attention and generate more engagement when they use compelling images to complement the story. Increasingly, audiences are judging brands by the photos they choose to represent themselves or their content online and in print. They’re becoming savvy too, and can usually spot a stock photo versus original when they see it.
Trendsetting marketers are moving away from stock photography because original photos offer them the greatest opportunity to create a real connection between their brand and their audiences. According to Forbes, research has shown that original photography has a greater chance of moving viewers of content to action. Images featuring real people (i.e. your people) create authenticity, tells your story and develops trust between you and your clients or potential clients.
Often overlooked (but real) costs associated with stock photography
Our agency serves a wide range of clientele. They all share the goal of using great imagery to reflect their brand online and in print, but they’re also watching the bottom line. So, when it comes to choosing between shooting original photography or downloading stock, they often choose stock based on the assumption that it’s a better budget decision. As their agency that’s understandable. We typically purchase through our subscription plans so they don’t see it as a line item.
Creative Director Doug Jackson works with Accurate’s Natasha Stewart‐Stark and Eric Lapointe on a recent production.
However, there are other costs associated with using stock that is often overlooked and harder to fix a dollar value to. Because Accurate Creative also has a team of professional photographers, we can and often do offer our services to shoot original rather than stock in our studio or on location. At first, the value is not immediately apparent to clients, so we ask them to ask themselves a few simple questions:
- What price do you put on authenticity? Let’s face it, most offices or places of business are not staffed by a model‐perfect people. Original photography tells your story and shows off your This creates instant authenticity and trust between you and your audience.
- How important is it to you to stand out from the crowd? When you use original photos of your people and your place of business, you’re guaranteed to never suffer the embarrassment of accidentally using the same stock photo as your competitors or similar organizations in your space.
- Do you want to build brand value? People will make snap judgments based the photos you choose. Image matters and using stock photos may be seen as disingenuous by some. Original photography creates a real connection between you and your audience, protecting and promoting your brand value.
These are questions we encourage you to ask yourself. We hope you will quickly see the value of original photography, as many of our clients do when you consider the other real costs associated with stock.
Can you spot the original office scene photo and which one is stock? Original photos of your people and space create brand authenticity.
Original photography can be very cost effective
There are many ways to make original photography work if it’s approached as an investment. We go into this in much more detail in our related blog Original photography: Not as expensive as you think (LINK), but here’s the Coles Notes version.
It’s very rare that our photographers are brought in to shoot a single photo on location. When we arrive, we explore the space to discover opportunities. Assuming we don’t need to set up complex lighting, we’ll shoot multiple photos from multiple angles and locations within the site. We may spend as little as a few hours on location and leave with up to dozens of shots. In the end, for a relatively small investment, our client receives a library of images that they can use on current and future projects.
Stock photo costs can add up
Royalty‐free websites typically charge a subscription fee for multiple downloads or fee per image. If you sign up to these sites yourself, you’ll see prices range from several dollars for single image downloads to a couple thousand dollars for an annual subscription plan.
You’ll often find the same content on a number of competing sites and that’s where the danger can sneak in. Most stock libraries contain millions of images of varying quality. It’s only natural that the best images are most appealing to most people. And this is why the unfortunate and embarrassing can happen. You or your agency has no way of determining if someone in your space also likes the image.
The odds of finding stock photos perfectly suited to your business are also not great because stock sites follow a basic business principle—sell products that are likely to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. In the stock photography business, that often means carrying a lot of generic content like over‐the‐top happy families or staged business meetings with the hope that it will sell.
Some stock libraries are more specific than others but these libraries often charge on a sliding scale. Referred to as ‘rights‐managed images’ or ‘premium royalty‐free’, these images are more exclusive and less used because they often cost hundreds of dollars each. Rights‐managed images charge based where it is used, how often it is seen and how long it will be in use. If you need several photos, well, you can do the math.
Can you spot the original office scene photo and which one is stock? Original photos showcase your personality, people, and brand.
Original vs. stock: how do you decide?
As a creative agency, we have to be pragmatic and receptive to the needs of our clients and their realities. There are many legitimate instances where it’s not feasible or cost‐effective to shoot original photos. Other times it is, so the investment to create a library of your images will offer many long‐term returns. From our experience, the choice between the two comes down to considering several variables.
Choose original photography:
- When you want to maximize authenticity and trust between you and your clientele
- When you want to stand out from the crowd
- When you want to avoid embarrassing moments when someone else in your space or a competitor has published the same stock image
- When you want to enhance the relationship between you and your audience
- When you want a greater chance of converting visitors and followers into clients
Consider stock photography:
- When you need a generic image of a place or specific geographic location
- For concepts that convey generic or themes that are not specific to your brand
- When the cost of travel to get to a specific location is prohibitive
- When the deadline is just too tight, or the weather or seasons are not cooperating and you need an image on the spot
Join the trendsetters
More and more organizations are discovering the value of creating a library of original images they can use now and into the future. It’s a great investment in building an authentic relationship with audiences. Contact us if you’d like a quote to create a library of images for your business.