In a using free stock photo vs using original high-quality photography argument, which comes out triumphant?
The advantages of using a free stock photo, or stock photography are obvious; it’s a cost-effective way to add visuals to your website, social media, and other digital or print marketing tools.
With a variety of free stock photo websites available at your fingertips, you can quickly search a phrase, such as “man typing” to produce a wealth of images in less than a second. So, what’s the drawback to this simple way of finding artwork that fits your marketing message? Simply, you’re not the only company that can use these images. Most stock photos do not have exclusive licenses; therefore, anyone can use the images—including your competitor.
When it comes to online imagery, you must make sure your images give the visitor a sense of texture, size, scale, detail, context, and brand. A study, conducted by Nielsen Norman Group, found that website users mostly ignore photos that are irrelevant to the purpose of the site. That means if you’re using free stock photography purely to make your website visually appealing, you may be missing the point entirely. Consumers are more interested in a high-quality photo that serves a purpose. Such as product images or photographs of real people within the company
We recently came across a humorous example of why you shouldn’t rely on a free stock photo to carry your website or artwork:
Meet The Everywhere Girl. Back in 1996, Jennifer Anderson posed for a stock photo shoot shortly after graduating college. At the time, companies would subscribe to a service and receive their stock photos on a CD-ROM. Unfortunately, the companies receiving the CDs didn’t have an easy way to verify who else was using the photo, and the license for the images was not exclusive. This meant anyone could use them. Within a few years, Jennifer became the ‘face’ of college girls – in what seemed to be every marketing campaign. The most notorious faux pas was in 2004 when PC competitors Dell & Gateway used photos from the same photo shoot in their ‘Back to School’ promotional material. Other companies who ended up with photos from Jennifer’s stock shoot were Samsung, Microsoft, US Bank, a series of books about Christianity, a teen chat line and a car stereo store! Read the full story here
Free stock images v unique
Stock photography (free or paid) has become so common in the industry that it no longer takes a trained eye to quickly spot the difference between staged, stock images and high-quality images. That’s reason enough to do some research, find a local corporate photographer and invite them to the office for an afternoon.
There are more advantages of using original photography than we have available digits to count on. Through experience in creating websites, social media updates, printed brochures, and more, it has become blatant that having a wealth of high-quality images at our Dropbox fingertips makes business sense. This pot of gold ensures we can whizz through a design brief with efficiency and confidence, producing material that is original, enticing, effective and long-lasting, at a low cost.
All it takes is just one visit from a recommended photographer.
Let them spend an afternoon with you and your team, immersing themselves in what makes your business tick. A good photographer will generate an overview of your company (depending on your specific brief) that depicts exactly who you are. You will then become the proud owner of a stock of hundreds of high quality, unique company images. All of which can be used for a huge variety of purposes. These can be tweaked, edited and used in whichever way you choose, digitally or in print. They can be timeless. Thus eliminating the need to spend hours trawling through stock photo sites that you might find on your competitor’s website. Your photos will tell a story, which your clients, consumers and business partners will trust and enjoy.
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If budget, time or other constraints mean that obtaining a free stock photo is your only remaining option, then just ensure you follow a few simple steps:
1 – Take your time to select a suitable image.
Don’t just pick image number one on the first page. There might a less ‘cheesy’ and more relevant option further through the search results, which depicts your subject more accurately.
2 – See who else is using that free stock photo.
This is where a tool called TinEye comes in very handy to do a reverse image search. This is so you can see where else that photo has been used.
3 – Try to make the stock photo unique.
Once you’ve found an image that you’re happy with, do what you can to make it your own. With a little magic from Photoshop, you can generate a one-of-a-kind graphic, putting your stamp on the widely-used image.
4 – Don’t be afraid to take your own photos.
It’s incredible (and slightly hard to swallow for a photographer) how much quality is packed into smartphones and other less expensive camera options. With a little planning and some basic knowledge of how lighting and composition work, you can take unique, high-quality photographs to better represent your brand.