Stock images are abundant in today’s digital landscape, and you’d be hard pressed to find a business website or marketing material that doesn’t use stock photography in some way. There are a few reasons for this: Stock photos are easy to find and implement, affordable for almost any business, and time-saving.
Unfortunately, stock photography isn’t the most eye-catching art form. Literally. A study by web expert Jakob Nielsen showed that people gloss over or entirely ignore generic or stock images. But photos of actual people or products in a realistic setting garnered much more attention.
So, what does this mean? Should you get rid of all stock photos in your marketing materials?
While stock images can fill up space on a website, they can’t really capture what your business is all about. Most stock images feel manufactured or set up, and their environments are rarely reflective of your actual workplace.
With custom photos, you pull customers in because they’re seeing your real team rather than a cookie-cutter set of stock models. This immediately identifies your company as authentic and tangible. People will feel more comfortable doing business with you because they see you, your employees, and/or your products (if you have products) in authentic settings.
There’s nothing more inauthentic than a professionally staged photograph of people who clearly don’t work at the company. It puts your company behind an overly polished veneer that makes you seem distant and possibly uninviting.
One of the most obvious disadvantages of stock photos is that they aren’t original. Many stock images provide generic scenes with generic backgrounds that you’ll find on virtually every other website.
In fact, there’s no guarantee that your competitor isn’t using the exact same stock image you’re using on your website or in your marketing materials. Most stock image companies sell those images non-exclusively, meaning that literally anyone can purchase and use them.
Of course, the alternative of using professional and personal photography ensures originality. You own the exclusive rights of any images taken by yourself or by a professional you hire. And, obviously, you won’t have to worry about your competitors using the same images on their website.
Another downfall of stock photos is that they provide you with no creative control. Even if you search for hours for the perfect image, you’re ultimately choosing someone else’s work designed to vaguely fit in with a range of businesses.
This, of course, can lead to significant branding issues. The images, logos, colors, and text you use for your company are all part of your brand. It’s hard, however, for stock photos to accurately communicate what your brand is.
With custom images, you take back creative control, which consequently lets you ensure your photos are on message. Imagine if a print ad for Coca-Cola used a generic image of people holding cups of unidentified brown liquid. It would be so bizarrely off-brand that you wouldn’t even identify it with the company at all.