Pros & Cons of Using Stock Photography

articles branding photography May 23, 2022

I’ve used 1000’s of photos during my career as a graphic designer and, while I’m a fierce advocate for using custom photography for your business branding and marketing, there is definitely a time and place for using stock.


Here are some pros and cons of using stock photography.


Pros of Using Stock Photography for Your Business


They are Readily Available 


If you’re creating a Facebook post and you need a picture of a woman running, for example, you can just go grab an affordable stock photo from your Canva subscription or wherever you get your stock photos, which brings me to the second pro.


They are Relatively Affordable


While some stock photography licenses can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on the usage, royalty free subscription based stock photography can be very cost effective. Most charge a monthly fee for a certain number of downloads or unlimited access.


Access to difficult subjects


Stock photography is great for when you need a photo that you couldn't easily create yourself or hire someone to create pretty quickly. For example, an arial shot of the Hawaiina islands, African Safari animals, a celebrity, or something like that where it just makes sense to buy a stock photo instead of going to the colossal expense of creating it yourself.


They May Save Time


If you don't need to have specifics in your photo, like your face, your office, product or service. You could get away with using stock. For example, if you want photos showing an emotion, random kids on a playground, any woman running in the park, or a family having fun, a stock photo would work just fine.


Cons of Using Stock Photography for Your Business


Your Brand Won't Stand Out


If you want to have generic content that looks like everyone else’s, use stock photography. Especially if you're using one of the lower-cost subscription services, you’ll likely find your competitors using the same images. This can make your brand start to look generic and get confused with other people within your industry, which brings me to my next point.


You'll Lose Potential Business


If you want to have a unique brand that really stands out, you need to have a photographic branding strategy and I recommend that include custom photos. You need to show your face, your workspace, your team, your process, culture and lifestyle.  


When you have custom photos no one else will be using the same photos in their content. They will be 100% unique to your brand and that's really going to help you stand out and become known as the expert that you are. When people get to know you, they'll like you and ultimately trust you. And people do business with people they feel like they know. Stock photography doesn't help you achieve the know like and feel factor.


It  can be expensive and restrictive


If you want a photo for National or International uses for a product or anything like that, stock photography can actually be pretty expensive based on usage rights. The license may also restrict your usage to certain platforms. 


You'll Waste Time

I forgot to mention this in the video, and it sounds counter to the above pro of saving time, but having a library of custom images can actually save you time. Scrolling through endless stock photos to find just the right one for your post, ad or website can take hours! Custom photos that are strategically created to communicate what you offer and your unique brand makes it quick and easy to choose the right photo on the fly.

I definitely think there's a place for both stock photography and customer photography within your business. It just depends on your strategy. 


If you're looking for some help with your branding and marketing strategy or branding photos and videos, contact me to schedule a quick call to see if we’d be a good fit.

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