Are There Drawbacks of Using Stock Photography?

Are There Drawbacks of Using Stock Photography?

There are lots of reasons to use stock photography when you first start out but in our research there are likely more reasons to skip stock in favour of actual content sessions with a photographer.

Some of the positives are what draws businesses to think this is the right path:

1. Stock can be convenient.

2. It can be less money to purchase a few stock images. Initially.

3. They are often better than images you can take yourself.

4. There is a lot of variety, in fact so much it can be overwhelming.

The positives often draw in small businesses who are looking for a budget friendly solution. There are however many reasons why long term investing more in your photography can bring you more clients and in many cases more effective and cost effective solutions.


Reason #1

Diversity and inclusion are a must have in today’s brand planning. For years stock photography was focused on creating content with white persons dominating the medium. Persons of colour were not included and images showing same sex, trans and other inclusive stories are just recently becoming more prevalent. 

Diverse and inclusive images are more effective in connecting you to your target audience.

In this session for Oshawa Tourism the instructor works Treetop Eco-Adventure Park and was happy to join our shoot which also featured other models from the region.


Reason #2

For a brand to appear it is fake or unreal is extremely damaging to a brand. As a brand uses overused photography from stock sites makes the message seem cliche compared to brands using fresh content they created. 

Creating your own images allows you to avoid cliche imagery and potentially losing your audience in the face of more effective communications in the market.

Showing Marco with a real client in his actual establishment is storytelling gold for Hunt and Dagger in the Explore Whitby magazine. His apron, his tattoos and so much more tell a story that cannot be replaced with stock photography.


Reason #3

We all have seen the two men shaking hands in a indistinguishable boardroom. Customers see this as a faked or inauthentic version of your brand which is not the effect you want to from branding imagery.

Creating your own images with your team, your office and your products lends an authenticity to your brand. Show your city or town and connect to your clients.


Chances are stock photos are not including a boy feeding a goat on a boat as we showed in the Oshawa Zoo session, this is another authentic way to tell the story through your own photography.


Reason #4

Stock photos are purposely made generic to sell to as many people as they can. They often have no real message that will support a brand looking to stand out in a cluttered marketplace. Without a focused brand message your marketing is less effective for your brand.

Making your own content means your messaging can show specific stories that only align with your brand. That key messaging can lift you above the competition and reach your competition.

Showing the parents of current owners making their special Dutch treats in tandem are a strong authentic story to tell for the Village Bakeshop. It’s also one of my favourite image ever taken for a local business.


Reason #5

Stock can be accessed at many price levels and increased access at lower pricing means overuse happens more often. Not to mention the pennies an artist receives from stock sales compared to fifteen years ago. Again low pricing, over use leads to over-saturation of images which is not helpful.

Creating your own content keeps artists making a living wage and creates content that is not over used and under performing.

This table, that board, and those cannolis can only be found at The Station: Traditional European Bakery in Brooklin, which means your customer will love seeing the actual items they saw in the Whitby Digital Food Guide.


Reason #6

Stock photography items all come with licensing based on usage. A fee to use it on your website versus Instagram can differ depending on the reach. This can over time lead to more expense than your original purchase and without further expenditure limit it’s usage.

While both stock and content creation fall under photographer copyright and licensing fees using local talent both sustains the local economy and provides a space to establish usage and budgets to align with your business goals.

Content created for the Town of Whitby archive can be reused over and over for any Town of Whitby project.


Reason #7

Stock photography show people who are not you. It can not be discounted how valuable your face and that of your team are in successful branding strategies. Stock photos of actors from another part of the world, the country and skylines that do not match your own are not helpful.

Your town, your office, your service or products in use with your team or ideal clientele. I personally will spend more on beer at a well branded craft brewery than buy a big brand beer.

Actual dentists from Birch Dental in their new office which is a beautifully designed space with natural light makes this a winning brand image.


Reason #8

I have spoken to many graphic designers who have spent countless hours scouring stock websites to no avail. Content did not suit their needs with incorrect skylines, lack of diversity or inclusion in the images available and other issues with stock they spent reviewing.

Making images that work for your brand saves time searching. It focuses your time and budget on creating content that will generate the results you need now.

It would take a long time to find an image of the exact wooden tokens we use for the Downtown Whitby Beerfest. Hiring event photographers ensures you have plenty of imagery to tell your story year after year.


Reason #9

In my past life I worked at three major advertising agencies at the start of the internet media metrics science. We invested in tracking to prove our campaigns worked for our clients. Stock photos under preform in media metrics which is ample reason to invest in unique content. 

When images used perform lower effectiveness the return on investment (ROI) comes into question. Picking a stronger set of images is the stronger choice when making branding decisions.

When creation of content it is important to have both long and short term goals. In balancing your budget and end goals for return on investment often times content of your own can serve your end goals with more success.

Kirsten McGoey | Visual Storyteller

Food Photography in Durham Region : Whitby Digital Food Guide 2024 Refresh

Food Photography in Durham Region : Whitby Digital Food Guide 2024 Refresh

Amazing food (in part through our photography) in the Durham Region is a story we have been telling locals and visitors to Whitby about for many years. For 2024 we have continued this alongside our client partners at the Town of Whitby Tourism team with ten new pages and a refreshed look to the entire guide.

The guide is an award winning piece that was awarded the EDAC’s  the top Marketing Canada Award for a Single Publication – 5 or more pages from the Economic Developers Association of Canada in 2023. The design by Amanda Jones and the entire team is alive with the amazing food scene options we have to offer in Whitby. 

Please note all content is made for the Town of Whitby tourism and they hold exclusive rights to this content for 6 months from launch. Afterwhich all content can be purchased for use by the respective businesses showcased.

As you might imagine a refresh means content from the 2022 and 2023 issues remain and we have added new content each year. I am only going to showcase the pages with our images from the 2024 refresh but invite you to spend time with the full guide which we will cite at the end of the blog post.

Page 5: We took only the images from Namak Handi.

We had the pleasure of working with the following amazing local businesses in town – listed in the order in the guide :

Balti Indian

Namak Handi

 The Greek Tycoon

Hot Rocks Creative Diner

5 Paddles Brewing Company

Antonio’s Italian Deli & Grocery

Tina’s Portuguese Cuisine

Please note all content is made for the Town of Whitby tourism and they hold exclusive rights to this content for 6 months from launch. Afterwhich all content can be purchased for use by the respective businesses showcased.

To view the content on the Town of Whitby Tourism Website visit here:

To see our PDF version for archiving:

Whitby Digital Food Guide 2024 (compressed for archiving at high res)

Kirsten McGoey | Visual Storyteller 

The 10th Annual Rotary Club of Whitby Food Truck Frenzy

The 10th Annual Rotary Club of Whitby Food Truck Frenzy

As a member of the Rotary Club of Whitby part of my volunteer work is doing the local event photography for the Food Truck Frenzy event. Over the course of two days I cover the event and now that I have done a few I can focus on moments and less on the trucks which makes this even more fun.

This year our marketplace included a vintage market, our kids zone had a new John Deer Blow up, the game zone was a huge hit, the Helen’s came out in droves to dance (think Three’s Company) and as per usual we had the Whitby Fire Department on site giving tours of their trucks. 

Is bigger better? With 30 food trucks, a children’s area and a marketplace I think we got the size and the offerings just right. Sure the event raises money for work we do all across the region and the around the world; but it also needs to be small enough for little feet to navigate.

Events are a chance to bring out the zoom lens, wait for smiles, capture the spread of owl wings and so much more. You need patience in this line of work and with so many great people, trucks and volunteers one cannot help but have a good time.

Want to be a part of the event next year? Click here:

Beach Family Photo Session in Whitby

Beach Family Photo Session in Whitby

It’s always a win to hit golden hour for family photos on the beach in Whitby. Parents often come to me after not having done family photos for years because the kids – teens and young adults – were just not into it. 

As the acceptance letters for University come in and they move into their new residences we love to help capture the family as it is before that big milestone. This session was mainly for the three girls, but as you will see Mom and Cubbie also got into it and as you can see Cubbie stole the show


Each family is different but I do warn people that I am a hug, hand holding, large laughter and emotion based photographer. I want to see your hands, your dogs, the relationship you have with your siblings.

These three sisters are close and you can feel their energy in the session. The emotions as your sister and mom tease you. The smiles as Cubbie runs me over for his treat. It is a joy to capture this family of which two are runners who we know through Durham Dragons.

Connect with us for your family session this summer, we would love to capture the experience for your and your family.

Kirsten McGoey | Visual Storyteller

Theatre Photography : Mamma Mia

Theatre Photography : Mamma Mia

Join us as we show you how a professional theatre production can be captured in Dress Rehearsals to support your production later in the week. Henry Street High School has a long standing tradition of great theatre and they delivered a great production of Mamma Mia! this year. Here we go again!

I am looking for the big emotional and physical moments in a play. This is infinitely made harder as I have rarely seen the play and sometimes notes about what to look for are not given. I watch to see where I can see the shots I want to make and often take a series of twenty to just get the right smile, eyes open and touch of nose or sassy look. Practice for them also applies to theatre photography, the more you do the more you know what to look for.

What I loved about the play this year was this black light sequence. It was so seamlessly blended into the story and the choreography was just amazing. It allows more of the ensemble to show off the depth talent at Henry. It was a great storytelling technique for the dream sequence and I was delighted I got some good frames as it’s the definition of “low light”.

When photographing theatre you will be faced with light changes, sometimes from moment to moment, sometimes one side is a different scene than the other. It’s always worth mentioning it to the tech team, sometimes the lights are like in Mamma Mia full of colour and capturing that is on point.

Every now and then a part is so perfect you could not imagine anyone else playing it. Meet Stella who plays Rosie in the production and nailed this part. Her physical comedy is spot on and I laughed, clapped and cheered her on in her pursuit of Bill. Bravo! A dash of her work is below:

I mean with ABBA as the soundtrack and a strong plot there is just not much you can say about this play that would be negative. The performances were amazing, the leads for performance 1 and 2 changed for 3 and 4 so we have tried to show you both casts as much as we could.

Stage Director : Skylar is rarely in front of the camera or on the stage but without her and the team there would be no performance. She guides the performance (her 6th with Henry) with skill and confidence – always smiling and ready to make it happen. We will miss you as you are moving on to post secondary.

Kirsten McGoey | Visual Storyteller

The Visual Story of MP Ryan Turnbull

The Visual Story of MP Ryan Turnbull

Creating effective photographic storytelling is unique to each person and the service they provide. Ryan Turnbull is a local MP in Whitby, Ontario and reached out to document his working day for his constiuent website. This site serves as a hub of information and a connection point for Whitby constituents to reach out to Ryan and his staff about key issues concerning the Whitby riding. In addition, there are links to many key services provided by the Federal Goverment – such as passports, old age security, the CRA and many more.

(above) Ryan connecting with staff who showed him how they work in the centre and tested out some machines together.

(below) Ryan shown in the Whitby Public Library – a stunning building designed in 2005 by Shore Tilbe Irwin and Partners (now Perkins+Will).

“My name is Ryan Turnbull and I am your MP for the riding of Whitby in Ontario, Canada: a fast-growing and diverse community just east of Toronto.(-) I am passionate about social issues as well as building a sustainable, eco-responsible economy.” (quote from website)

Telling the story of Ryan Turnbull, MP involved visiting his real constituents all over Whitby. Showing real people engaging with Ryan in community hubs, on campus at Durham College and businesses throughout Whitby allowed for great storytelling alongside connecting in real time with constituents, students, faculty and business owners. Ryan has been the Whitby MP since 2019.

Below: Ryan is shown at the Whitby Seniors Centre in the cafeteria engaged with constituents who know him well and had a hearty discussion on local issues.


Above (1): Ryan making espresso at Bistro ’67. (2) At the Maker’s Hub with Cheryl experiencing the confetti throws from her live shows during COVID. (3) Learning some paddy making skills in the food school at Durham College. (4) Testing the machines with Elliot at the Abilities Centre.

Above: Ryan is shown in a Durham College’s Mechanical Technician – Elevating Devices as a professor runs through servicing an escalator alongside students.

Above: Ryan is shown in a Durham College’s farm fresh and accessible year-round container which grows food; think shipping container with a hydroponic equipment that create rows of “bunk beds” for growing food even on the coldest Canadian winter days.

To book us to tell your story:

Kirsten McGoey | Visual Storyteller