5 reasons why stock photography may NOT be a good idea

Wednesday 10th December 2014   by Stuart Bickerton

In an earlier post, I was extolling the virtues of using stock photographs in your marketing campaigns. I came up with five good reasons to use stock photography, available online, in promotional designs.

I said they are convenient – quick to access. They can be relatively inexpensive, so the price is good. There’s a huge choice. Quality is also pretty much as good as you want it to be. And there are lots of styles, so creativity is also a plus.

I promised also to share some downsides. So here are five of them:

Lack of exclusivity

If these images are available for you to download, they are for others too. A competitor could use the same image for their brochure, web project or poster.

If you want to be 100% fresh and exclusive, commission the photographer and control the content. You can obtain a licence to restrict the use of the image by others. But that will come at a price. I’ve paid over £1,400 for just one image in the past, to give our client a certain degree of exclusivity across the world.

It’s a few years old but this post from FairTradePhographer nails the point I’m trying to make here rather well.

Licence agreements

Always read the small print. Can you use the image across multiple formats? And in multiple countries? Can it be used for advertising, or for press only? You need to make sure the image licence covers your image for the use it’s intended.

Search time

If you are not sure what you are looking for, you may end up scrolling through pages and pages of images and an hour has passed before you know it.
A solution is to give a concise verbal brief to a designer, who has the expertise and experience to look for you. They will have a good idea of what image works best in the space available. It will cost you a little more in design time, but will could save a lot of frustration.

Apparently this woman from istock is "Gathering all the information she needs". A common scene in your offices I guess. COMP IMAGE for representation only - full image available from iStock

Apparently this woman from istock is “Gathering all the information she needs”. A common scene in your office I guess? COMP IMAGE for representation only – full image available from iStock

Fromage

Not a technical term, I know. But some stock shots are cheesy, very, very cheesy. Some of the larger sites have improved dramatically in this respect, but approach with care – and maybe a knife, and some grapes.

Brand reflection

Without the individuality or care and attention a bespoke shot can achieve, it may be difficult to find images that consistently and accurately reflect what you want your brand to be all about. And compromise on brand may feel painful. It may also not make good business sense.

One of many images you can find if you search iStock for "Businesswoman cheering" - I've done the hard work for you here

One of many images you can find if you search iStock for “Businesswoman cheering” – I’ve done the hard work for you here http://istockpho.to/1qvlvsX

 

So, there you go. Stock photography can be excellent. But it also has its drawbacks.

Of course, you can choose stock or original photography on a case-by-case basis. Certainly depending on the level of importance you put on the particular campaign.