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The Perils of Stock Photography

Do a search, and you can very likely find an affordable stock photo that illustrates exactly what you want – or comes pretty close – or can suffice with some retouching. So what’s wrong with that? Nothing, at times. That same stock photo, however, can be usable by others, like competitors or those in totally unrelated businesses, offering up potential audience confusion. (“I just saw that photo of a goldfish wearing glasses on a billboard for a big car dealer, now it’s on a postcard from my dentist?”) To those working so hard to cultivate a truly unique, differentiated brand, I offer this advice: remember the photographer!

Nothing captures your (or your agency’s) original creative thought the way original photography can. While this can be more expensive than stock art, digital photography has brought costs down considerably – and there are other ways to save money as well. Studio shoots on seamless allow you to import backgrounds (that’s a good use for stock photos!), saving money on boondoggle trips to exotic locations. Still product shoots save the cost of live models. And so on. Share your budget with your agency before they begin concepting your next ad campaign, collateral program, or website design. YES I said website design. Once relegated to the land of cheap photography (“It doesn’t have to be high-resolution, so let’s use stock…”), digital platforms are the last place you want to be using stock imagery, now that people can search the web by image! Knowing the cost parameters to work within, your agency can really get creative on behalf of your brand…rather than getting creative with stock photo search terms.

Here is a sneak peek at a SAKS Eyewear shoot we did last week at MILK Studios in New York City. Not only does original photography allow us to fulfill our creative vision (no pun intended) and have a consistent model from ad campaign to ad campaign (if we desire), it also lets us maximize technology to shoot live video – adding extra dimension for trade shows, websites, training and more. Owning images as unique as their designer glasses has another important benefit for SAKS Eyewear: brand reputation protection.

Don’t be short-sighted when it comes to stock photography. (Again with the unintended pun!) If you must use stock, try to relegate them to supporting roles and let original artwork serve as your hero image.

~ @AdvertGirl


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