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