Custom Vs. Stock Photography 101

So, you want to build a new website or revamp that brochure you've been using for a bajillion years. You're definitely going to need some great images to go with your copy, but where will you get these images? There are lots of stock photo sites out there where you can find just about anything under the sun, but is it a good idea to go with stock images? Sometimes, but most of the time custom photography is the way to go. Let's talk about it!

The truth about stock photos

Some people will tell you that stock photos are just the devil and that you should never use them because they're bland and boring and impersonal. While they can be rather generic, sometimes that's just fine. Let's face it, while it would be ideal to always use custom photos, not everyone has the budget or the time to plan on that being a part of every project. Stock photos come out on top when you have a limited amount of time and money, but also when it's not crucial to add a personal touch.

For example, let's pretend you're sending out a newsletter about eating healthy foods. A generic photo of a healthy meal would be fine to use here. The game really changes when you're trying to get your core message across and make a personal connection with your customer.

Where custom photos really shine

When you want to truly convey who you are to your customer, you're going to want some photos of your actual staff in your real facility. Let's say for example that you're creating a new website and you'd really like to share who you are with your potential and existing customers. You could get some stock photos of folks hanging around an office doing office-y things, but chances are, it's going to be clear that that photo you picked out to represent "Jen from Customer Service" is a sterile stock photo of some random person in a generic setting.

Stock vs. Custom Photo Difference

Can you tell the difference between a stock photo and a custom one? The stock photo doesn't give you the warm and fuzzies, does it? Your customers will pick up on the difference too and recognize that you're not being genuine. People today are looking for the real deal, so it's absolutely worth a little extra money and planning to get some photos that aren't only of your real employees, but ones that also reflect your vision, your tone and your message. What's more is that they'll be uniquely yours and nobody else will be using them. You cannot say that about stock photos which can pop up anywhere—even on your competitor's website!

The bottom line

It's ok to use a mix of both stock and custom images in your marketing materials, but in the end it all comes down to how you use them. Know when your customer will want to see photos of the actual people they'll be working with and you'll come across as real and trustworthy. Use stock photos when your topic is more general and not so tied to who you are as an organization. People want authenticity these days, so let that notion be your guide and you won't go wrong.

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