When Can You Use Stock Photos?

“A picture is worth a thousand words”; it’s an old adage but one that’s still applicable in today’s digital world. In fact, images add potency to your marketing campaign, as evidenced by the research proving that visual content compels users to remain on your webpage for longer periods of time. Even better, photos garner as many as ten times more likes and shares on social media, allowing more users to view the quality content you’re providing to go along with them.

However, procuring just the right image to go along with your content isn’t always easy. Very few business owners have the time or the talent to consistently produce high-quality photography to go along with a marketing campaign. Most must resort to hiring a photographer or utilizing one of the thousands of stock photos readily available online.

What’s Right About Stock Photos?

Stock photos tend to garner some strong emotions, both in the users that encounter them on business pages across the web, as well as in the business owners who post them. However, many marketing campaigns allow neither the time nor the budget necessary to hire a dedicated photographer for each and every bit of content. Stock photos offer a viable solution, with thousands of photos of reasonable quality, available for practically any application you can imagine.

At their best, stock photos are simply a searchable range of photos, filtered by whichever parameters you desire and perfectly matched to whichever niche or topic your post is about. They’re easy to obtain, much more affordable than a dedicated photographer, and available much more quickly. The ideal end result, of course, is that you can optimize images within your content to further engage your targeted customer base.

What’s Wrong With Stock Photos?

At their worst, stock photos can be overdone, infiltrating your content with images that read as false and even cheesy to your users. In addition, since the images are captured without a specific assignment in mind, many vaguely match your content at best. Their origins, as a cache of photos available to anyone who wishes to download or purchase them, also puts you at risk for duplicating photos used by your competition.

Stock photos exist in such a wide range of qualities that even if you find a photo that perfectly matches your content, you’ll need to ensure you’re not projecting shoddy quality with low-resolution images. Still, when carefully selected and used wisely, the right stock photos can help you add all the benefits images offer to your marketing campaign, without the expense of a privately hired photographer. However, it’s important to identify the ideal times to put stock photos to use, as well as when they may not be as effective.

When Should You Use Stock Photos?

One of Vizion’s blogging best practices includes the use of fitting images to provide a human element to your writing. The right stock photo can add just the right touch of human connection to your content, engaging users who can relate to the emotions you’re trying to convey. Compare several photos that depict the correct emotions you’re aiming for and choose the one you have a natural connection with.

For smaller run print projects, such as brochures and flyers, stock images are usually fine as well. The resolution is sufficient for smaller photos, and the audience isn’t as large as with other print products. Sometimes, you’re better off with stock images when you have a tight deadline and either no budget or no time to hire a professional photographer.

When Should You Forego Using Stock Photos?

One of the major problems with using stock photos is that they very rarely come off as original to your brand. While smaller campaigns that are targeted towards a very specific part of your demographic can utilize stock photos without much issue, avoid using stock for major media campaigns, billboards, and any project with high visibility. There’s simply too much opportunity for comparison, and you have too much riding on a major campaign to risk using a photo that’s not quite right.

Avoid using stock photos when you need a very specific image to support branded content. For example, if your business sells a product, it’s misleading and unhelpful to include stock photos of products similar to yours. Similarly, you’re not doing your brand any favors if you choose a stock photo with the description “locksmith with truck” instead of a photo of your own branded truck and a helpful employee. In these cases, you’re much better off hiring a photographer to produce a set of images specifically for you rather than scrounging up something similar on a stock photo site.
What’s the Takeaway?

While a point of contention for some, stock photos can truly help provide convenience and value for your marketing dollar. However, it’s important to use them wisely and sparingly. For smaller projects, internal blog content, or non-branded website images, stock images can serve a purpose; for large, branded campaigns, it’s usually best to hire a photographer.