When is stock photography not good enough?

Why one Waltham, MA company chose custom shots over stock photos.

Sometimes, stock photography is good enough. But let me clarify: by sometimes, I really mean sometimes. And by enough, I mean just that: it’s not great. It’s not terrible. Sometimes, it’s just enough to meet a company’s needs in the moment. The truth is, many smaller companies don’t have the marketing budgets necessary to capture custom shots for every marketing piece they do. And that’s okay. As long as they can distinguish between when it’s all right to sub in stock photos and when it is not. So here is what I consider to be the top two instances a company should choose custom photography over stock photography: 

1. When the marketing piece is a staple of your brand. 

To me, the decision to use stock photos vs. custom photos often comes down to branding. So ask yourself: is this marketing piece a staple of my brand? 

What do I mean by a staple of your brand

I’m talking about your essential, longstanding marketing materials that have the biggest impact on your brand identity. 

Here are few brand staples that come to mind: 

  • The main page of your website
  • Your brochure images, particularly the cover
  • Any high traffic ads or direct mailers

These are the pieces that shape the way your brand is perceived by your customers, your targets, and your community. 

Why is it so important to avoid using stock photos for your brand staples? 

Because stock photography screams stock photography. In other words, stock photos come off as generic and cheap. A dime-a-dozen. 

So when you use generic images to represent your overall brand, your company will naturally be perceived as generic. Not to mention that it’s impossible to stand out from the crowd if you’re using the same images as your competitors.

2.  When you have a unique product or a specific look you’re going after. 

With millions of images to search through, stock photography does provide a certain amount of flexibility.  But in many instances, there’s simply no substitute for custom photos. Like when a company has a unique product they want to display. 

But sometimes, it’s about more than just the product. Sometimes companies have a very specific look they’re going after that can only be achieved by setting the scene themselves. 

In fact, I shot custom images for one of my clients in Waltham, MA for this exact reason the other day. Their product is an online application, so as far as lifestyle photography goes, it would have been easy for them to find some standard stock photos to use. 

So why did they hire me to shoot their images? 

They wanted their customers and targets to feel deeply connected to their product. Which meant producing a very specific look that would resonate with their audience. 

They took a lot of steps to execute their particular vision. They held an extensive casting call and were extremely selective about the people and location they chose. 

And in return, this client ended up with original, professional shots that appeal to their audience while also enhancing, rather than damaging, their brand. 

Still unsure whether custom or stock is right for you? Drop me a line and I’ll be happy to talk it through with you!

Tags: professional photographer

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