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Toronto-based boutique agency specializing in web design and development, identity and print design.
Nov 1

Stock Vs Custom Photography

IMAGES ARE POWERFUL. Look around your world and see for yourself. Good photos do matter. In an age of information overload, the images you use on your website, in your brochures, fliers and ad campaigns or even on your business cards do three critical things:

  • Photos brand you fast and deep. Because photos are dynamic, colorful and personal, many customers remember images in a visceral, almost emotional way. Yet many businesses trust a generic stock photo to represent who they are rather than hire someone to capture the most important aspects of their brand-their visual image. Weigh the pros and cons carefully before you do the same.
  • Photos grab and hold the attention of potential clients and customers. In a world of thousands of businesses all clamoring for attention, the photographs that stand out, that are unique, unusual and special are the ones that catch a consumer’s attention. In a field of dairy cows, it’s the purple cow that makes us stop and take a second look. Unless you’re a purple cow all you’ve got are photos to catch people’s eye. Are people taking a second look at your photos?
  • Photos can create an emotional anchor people remember and refer to forever. If you don’t believe it, think about some of the most memorable images of your lifetime. Most will be news photos because they are unique, memorable and powerful images, but there will images from friends, movies, vacations, other brand campaigns and advertising that you will carry forever.

Photography Sources:
There are two main sources of photographs licensed for business use: stock photos and hired photographers. Stock photos are generic photos of people, places and things licensed for commercial use and available to anyone who wants to use them. Hired photographers shoot unique photos that personalize a client’s brand, business and projects.

Benefits of Stock Photography:
There’s no doubt about it, stock photos are appealing to many small businesses because they fit tight budgets, are available fast if you’re on a tight timeline, and they’re great for references. But they have a dark side and some serious cons.

Cons of Stock Photography:

    Stock photos aren’t such a great option when your competitor is using the same photos. If you’re searching for stock photos using key words like “happy customer,” or “satisfied clients,” chances are your competitor is too. Dell and Gateway computers found out the hard way that looking like your competitors was a bad thing. They bought the same stock image to brand their ad campaign and ended up being ridiculed and humiliated in public. The photos may change, but the article stays online making them a case study in what not to do, forever. See full article here:
    You save money by using stock photography; but then you end up spending those savings on having your designer spend hours in front of a computer trying to design around available stock photos that don’t fit the vision, the message or the brand. You can save money and lose value when you only look at the bottom line or the dollar sign. True value is the value your customers see because you’ve invested your money wisely, and where it shows to the world.
    When you hire a designer based on their portfolio, style and vision, you hire them because you trust them to visually interpret your message and brand. They can’t do that if they’re limited by using stock photography.
    Does any of your marketing copy say ‘customized’, ‘unique’, ‘trustworthy, ‘relationship’? These are some of the power words businesses use to describe their relationship with their clients. How then will these values be translated when you pepper your website with canned stock photography? If you give your clients customized service with unique products, why not treat yourself as well?
    Professional stock photographers try to reach the greatest number of buyers, not to create the best or most unique photo for any given individual.
    Stock photographers:

    • Make their money by creating and shooting photos that appeal to the greatest number of buyers. The more popular their photo, the more people buy it and the greater the saturation of that photo in the market.
    • Want to ensure their designs are not unique or one-of-a-kind. One-of-a-kind photos don’t sell. By being as generic and non-descript as possible they appeal to the most business because they “fit” a cliché, mood or message those businesses with tight budgets and no concern about branding want.

    If you want your message to your customers to be, “We’re just like everybody else,” then stock photos will send that message.

Customized photography is an investment and a reflection of how strongly you believe in your company. Some of the most compelling reasons for choosing customized photography over stock photos:


    Your brand is the face of your business. Anything you attach to your brand, employees, design, photography and language creates a message about who you are and what you stand for. Customized photography will allow you to embody your message with visual images that are consistent with your values and something that you can truly say ‘that is soooo us! When it comes to your brand, there should be no compromises.
    Exclusivity is guaranteed. By hiring a photographer you’ll not only be the only company with your unique image, with the proper usage agreement with the photographer you can get exclusive perpetual license to use the image in various ways at a very reasonable cost.
    Clients and customers are smarter than you think. When your small company hides behind a stock photo of a large team, they wonder what you’re hiding. If your company can boast about business, that’s all the more reason to photograph your staff, plant, office, personnel and show your clients what you’ve really got.

    • A photo of one-to-three real customers talking about, using or demonstrating your product tells a better story than all the stock photos in the world ever could.
    • Real people, places and situations in photos create more powerful word-of-mouth referrals than stock photos can.
    You gain or lose potential clients in 1-3 clicks of a mouse. New clients always check out your website first. If the website photos and visuals on your homepage don’t invite them to stay and get comfortable, they won’t.

    • Customized photos hook your client visually; the same way great copywriting hooks them when they read about you. If their interest and curiosity isn’t aroused within those first few seconds, they leave.
    • First impressions are a crucial time to visually engage them and to show them you share a common emotional connection. By the time they make that call, they will feel that they already know you and have connected with you.
    Most businesses don’t realize it, but by using unique photos of your company, personnel and products your photos are more likely to be used in a news or feature article about your company. Magazines and newspapers won’t use stock photos when they write about you. They want real photos. They can’t always send a photographer out to take a news photo, so they will often ask if you have photos they can use instead.

    • When you can provide additional photos to help illustrate an article for a newsletter, news article or other publicity use you’re more likely to be selected or included in the media, including blogs, newspapers, business journals, magazines and even television.
    • By having a variety of photos of personnel, staff and officers, as well as production photos or photos of your operation or staff in action, you also increase public interest in your presentations, talks and speeches about your company.

    Photos tell your story, not everyone else’s story. Years ago, several of the most popular big-box retailers (Wal-Mart, Kmart and Target) began using their own employees in their product ads. They found that customers liked recognizing the staff, or knowing that the company showcased people who actually used and wore their products.

    • Your story is unique, shouldn’t the illustrations be too?
    • If you hit a hole-in-one, scored the winning goal or achieved some goal would you be happy with a stock photo illustrating your achievement? How is your business any less important?
    • We remember movies, stories and events through photos. If the photos are not unique, they’re not worth remembering or paying attention to.

There are many ways to place customized photography on your website or your next marketing brochure for maximum impact. To see what we can do for you, schedule a free consultation by contacting Mouth Media.