Investing in stock. Pros and cons of stock imagery.

Last Updated on August 11, 2016

Stock imagery. From billboards and print campaigns to the web, it’s everywhere. This can be good or bad, depending on why and how it’s used. Let me explain.

Businesses and organizations communicate with whom? People, of course. This communication is attempted through written words and visuals. Typically, imagery is used more than words, since imagery helps to generate an emotional connection with an audience. This connection is vital when it comes to the relationship between businesses/organizations and their consumers.

Enter stock imagery. Many companies like iStock Photo, Corbis, and Veer offer a very affordable alternative to a traditional photo shoot. As these companies and others have grown over the years, there has been a kind of over-saturation of stock imagery in society. The one negative impact to this over-saturation is the lack of originality and the overuse of the same images. But there are other pros and cons we should consider. Let’s take a look at some.

PROSAccess to a wide variety of images, illustrations, stock video, type, and more.

Now anyone from the secretary to the Creative Director can look for the “right image.”

Having the images when you need them.

Using them in concepts can help generate ideas.

The licensing.

It may be more affordable for your budget.

CONSLack of originality.

Now anyone in your organization can choose the “right image.”

Overuse of images.

Inappropriate use of images – using the wrong resolution or simply the wrong image for the message.

Licensing can be overlooked.

The affordability can knock out right away the option of a custom photo shoot.

Now before you make a decision to go with stock imagery, first consider hiring a good photographer. An experienced photographer can help you get the real images you want and help you to stay within your budget. The big to having your own photography is that they are more true to your business. They are unique to your people, customers, products, and projects. Customers know the difference between stock photography and the real deal, so what is that worth to your business?

Shown above are two examples of images. The one of Lincoln was shot by a Cincinnati photographer (Rack Photo) for one of our clients, The one on the right is a stock image that could be used for a law firm. As you can see, the left image has a more genuine, personable, and Cincinnati feel because it’s right down the street from the firms office. The one on the right has a stereotypical law firm feel that is cold and may not connect with the website viewer.

When is it appropriate to use stock imagery? You may want to ask yourself the following questions before choosing an image (stock or custom):

  • What am I trying to communicate to my audience?
  • Would that audience value investing in authentic photos?
  • Can my budget allow for a photographer to shoot some images?
  • What types of images will help get my message across?
  • Are the decision makers for my project capable of choosing the right imagery? If not, then who should do it?
  • Once I have a rough concept, where does imagery come into play?
  • If stock imagery is chosen, are my images communicating the right message(s)?
  • Are my images original enough?

Remember, your choices in imagery affect your communication efforts. Whether you choose a stock image for $5 or hire a photographer and it costs you $1,500 may not matter. What does matter is if the imagery helps you make that connection with your audience.