The Pros and Cons to Using Stock Photography


Sooner or later you’ll be faced with the question of whether or not to use stock photography in your marketing materials. In fact, you’ve probably already asked this question many times and have reluctantly added stock images to your blog posts and email newsletters. Though stock photography gets a lot of bad press, is there really any harm in using it?

Take a deep breath – stock photography is not as bad as some people make it out to be. In fact, it tends to be how the images are used that is more of the issue rather than actually using them.

Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons to adding stock images to your advertising materials.

The Pros

Inexpensive - If you have a tight budget (don’t most of us?), then stock photography is a great option. The images are affordable, and you can purchase them individually or in a set. You can easily set your budget and not have to worry about footing the bill for a professional photographer, the models, the equipment and the editing. And, with so much stock photography available, it’s easy to find a solution that fits your budget.

Quick – Not only might you be short on budget but time as well. Stock photography is fast. Once you have an account with a certain provider, you can sign on, choose the photo of your choice and use it in your content. The only time involved is searching for the right photo and perhaps retouching it to fit your needs.

Variety – There are thousands of photos available on stock photography websites, so you won’t have trouble finding what you need. Photos of people, abstract art, nature and pets are available to complete your project.

Quality – Most stock photography is very high quality, so don’t feel like your content takes a lower seat because you use it. Most websites have strict requirements for their images, so you can expect that all the available photos will meet these expectations. You can also view the images in advance so you know exactly what you’re getting before you pay for the image.

The Cons

Overused – Because stock photos are available to everyone, there’s a chance that your competitor may feature the very same image on a similar piece of content. This is a risk that you run anytime you use images that aren’t custom made for your company. With so many photos on the Web, the risk of using the same photos is still relatively low, though.

License Restrictions – There is also the issue of license restrictions when you use non-custom photography. Make sure you read the fine print before downloading and using the photo. Some websites expect you to credit the author while others leave it optional. Also be aware that some photos are only allowed for editorial use and not advertising.

Ordinary - The one main advantage to custom photography is that it represents your brand. You can ensure that all the photos used in your marketing are consistent with your core message. Unfortunately, you can’t do this with stock photography. Some brands, despite their best efforts, end up looking like everyone else.

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it. Both sides to using stock photography. Most small businesses use a combination of both custom and stock photography so that they can meet their budget and time constraints. If you do choose to use stock images for the majority of your projects, make sure you choose quality stock websites, read the fine print and search for some of the more unique images.