Business people shaking hands. Business people sitting in boardrooms. Business people smiling at a document. Business people pumping their fists in the air.
Let’s face it: Most business stock photography leaves a lot to be desired. The talent is racially ambiguous and non-threateningly attractive. The staff is gender-balanced. The suits are grey. The teeth are white. And the eyes are utterly soulless.
Business websites that use stock images often end up looking cookie-cutter. Cover up the logos, and you often can’t discern one website built with stock photography from the next.
But, custom photography can be expensive. Or worse, it can be just as cheesy as stock if executed poorly.
But there are times when each category—stock photography or custom photography—is appropriate. How do you know what photos to use and when to use them? Read on for the pros and cons, and how to ensure you get the best of both.
The Pros of Stock Photos
- They’re convenient. Stock photography services like Shutterstock and iStock are popular for a reason. You can go online and download photos in seconds.
- They’re inexpensive. You can buy some photos for as low as $10 each. There are even free stock photo sites like Pexels and Pixabay. (Be sure to check the rights on each image to know if attribution is necessary.)
- There’s a wide variety of topics. You can search their vast databases. It’s especially easy to find abstract images if you’re looking to make a metaphor.
The Cons of Stock Photos
- They’re generic. Most people can tell they’re canned. Some feel downright soulless. Plus, the locations might not look like your locale or office, and the customers and employees may not look like locals.
- They’re available to anyone. Anybody can buy and use the same photo, including your competition.
- They may have stipulations. For example, with rights-managed stock photography, an individual agreement is negotiated for each use.
The Pros of Custom Photos
- They’re your photos. You can use them when you want, where you want, as often as you want.
- They’re more welcoming. Photos taken by a professional show you care. For example, you can better relate to a photo of a local doctor than a stock photo doctor.
- They more effectively tell your story. They show your products and services, your building, your employees, and your customers.
The Cons of Custom Photos
- They’re an investment. You have to pay for the photographer’s shooting time, travel, and editing time.
- They can become dated quickly. For example, if someone in the photo leaves your company. Or it’s spring, summer, or fall, and your photo shows snow.
The Bottom Line
Use custom photography whenever possible. It will be more effective, and people will appreciate the extra effort, leading to a stronger relationship with your audience.
If you have a small budget or need an abstract image, go with stock photography.