Pros and Cons of Using Stock Photos in Your Marketing

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Stock photos are found all over the internet. They are taken by photographers and sent to stock houses where they can be licensed and sold. While stock photos can be a great opportunity for photographers, the lines are more blurred for businesses.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with using stock photos, but it is important to know when to use them and when not to use them. Let’s go over the pros and cons to using stock images, as well as advice on when and when not to use them.

Pros of Stock Images

  • Save time. Custom photos require a lot more time. You have to hire a photographer, organize a photo shoot and wait for edits to be made. Stock photos allow you to complete a project right away. Download and you’re done!
  • Versatile. Stock photos can be used in many different ways. Browse a stock image library of hundreds or thousands of photos and find exactly what you’re looking for.
  • Responsive. As long as you choose high quality images, stock photos will look great across all devices. You can even choose the sizes you want before uploading.
  • Affordable. Hiring a photographer costs money, which can hurt a project with a tight budget. Typically, stock photos cost just a few dollars. You can pay for the individual image or sign up for a monthly membership.

Cons of Stock Images

  • Licensing. Even though you’re paying for the stock photo, you still have licensing requirements to follow. If you use the photo for purposes not covered in the agreement, you could face costly consequences.
  • Dime a dozen. Stock photos are not authentic. They can be found anywhere, usually on multiple stock photography sites. Using the same images as everyone else can make your website feel fake.
  • Cliche. Stock photos are often spotted for their lack of originality. They tend be families smiling and laughing together or coworkers shaking hands. With only seconds to capture a customer’s attention, go with something original and unique.

When to Use and When to Avoid Stock Photos

I recommend using stock photos when you’re pressed for time, such as when you have a marketing campaign that needs to go out right away. Stock imagery is also great when you need to promote your business but don’t have the pictures to do so. Browse through a library of visual content and find photos to support your message.

There are times when stock photos should be avoided. I highly recommend using authentic visuals on your website. Show your company culture, your specific products and the people who work behind the scenes. Because social media is overrun with stock photos, I also suggest using original photos on your social channels.  This is a great way to attract attention and capture the unique personality of your brand.

Final Thoughts

In the end, there’s nothing wrong with using stock images to round out your website and marketing campaigns. But, don’t rely on them entirely. I suggest hiring a photographer to capture a wide range of content that can be used for all of your marketing channels. Taking your own photos is great, too, especially for social media.