What do you think of when you think of stock photography?
For me, it’s a mix of awkwardly posed clinical business photos with big graphs and buzzwords overlain. Or memes…
There are a lot of misconceptions about stock photography, mainly that it should never be used seriously to market a brand, as it looks cheap and uncreative – but that isn’t really the case these days. Stock photography AND videos have come a long way in the last decade, and whether or not you should use it all depends on the context.
You need to consider how you use the stock images, what you are searching for, your sources and if you have a keen eye for what looks ridiculously fake and what matches the brand you are using it for. So, to stock or not to stock…
What is stock photography?
Stock photography is images that can be purchased online, downloaded by anyone and licensed for specific uses. Believe it or not, stock photography started in the 1920’s! I know… nuts, Google told me that. How did that even work back then? Send some morse code to Titanic’s sister ship and get some printed photographs dropped off in the post is my guess…
What is stock photography used for?
Typically stock photography is used when you can’t get a photograph of something you need or simply don’t have the time or budget.
Take for example this image of the space nebula, I’ll happily admit that my salary here at Forever sadly isn’t enough for a ticket to space, and I’m not sure I can rent a camera with a lens big enough to get this shot anywhere in the Greater Manchester area. However, if a client required a campaign based around space, within a few clicks I would have the imagery needed to put this into action.
Where can I get stock photography
Things have come a long way since the 1920’s. You can now go online using a computer and subscribe to a number of large and trusted stock imagery websites. I would suggest subscribing as you usually get a number of images and vectors to use up a month, buying one or two outright would probably cost the price of a full monthly subscription anyway. (SPOILER: most of them are around £100-£1000 a month)…
How much does it cost
Nothing! Haha no only joking, but here are some examples of great free and paid stock photography websites…
Best Free Stock Image Websites :
Best Paid Stock Image Websites :
The Pros of using stock photography
- As I mentioned near the start there are ways of obtaining images that seem unattainable – (eg. the ocean floor)
- There’s a hell of a lot of choice – and more and more images get added every day
- You can request images and contact support for a helping hand to find any (only with the paid ones)
- It’s super convenient. Look at all the images I’ve shared already and I haven’t left my seat.
- Super high resolution images are available
- Images can be downloaded already cut out to help speed up your photoshopping workflow
- The price of a subscription is probably going to work out cheaper than most custom photoshoots.
- Speeds up work flow
Cons of using stock photography
- There’s a lot of bad stuff out there, and I mean a lot of awfully staged images you need to be careful you don’t use. They can really cheapen a brand and help it become a laughing stock online… unless you want that?
- The images are not exclusive to you. Anyone can download the images, not just you, which is why we try to only use broad images that we can edit into existing shoots to help up the quality of them.
- You didn’t take the images so there will be some licensing restrictions – you need to be careful and check what you can use the image on.
Take a break and have a look at this twitter account. It’s brilliantly weird and dark! And you, yes these real images from stock websites 😳
Anyway, back to business…
What are the Pros of doing your own photoshoot?
- You own the images. Yep, you took them, you can do what you want with them.
- You can art direct the images, so you can basically create whatever image you want for whatever campaign you need, for exmaple our latest barburrito chorizo campaign, all the chorizo bits where shot in real life and placed by us
- Add trust to your brand, when people check out a brand online they want to see real images of the product or event, stock images would only make someone more unsure about what it is you are trying to sell.
- You can tailor the images to the intended audience, stock images are basically made to be for everyone, they get more downloads that way, but it makes them more generic
- Helps create a strong portfolio to get more work, who ever goes into a pitch with a portfolio of stock images, im sure someone has, id like to meet them, if this is you message us.
Cons of doing you own photoshoot?
- The main reason really is price, it take a lot of planning, people’s time, stress and skill level to create a really stunning photoshoot. This all costs money, which some people dont always want to part ways with
- You could put a lot of effort into a photoshoot and the client could still not be happy. However, if you did you moodboarding and planning and art direction mock ups well enough and got sign off this should happen. Good point actually shoot photos are great for pre shoot mockups and art direction!
Using both for a streamlined workflow and better quality of work
Now we have all the pros and cons of both using stock and not, its time to get to the real point. What is our take on using stock photography?
Honestly, it’s best to use both in harmony with each other to help up the look of production and value of your shoot.
Take for example our latest animated product photoshoot for Playtime lube (above). We used a combination of product shots of the lube bottles in our studio and stock images of the fruit and veg used in the flavouring to help create images that really stand out. Without the use of stock imagery, it would have taken us a lot longer to photograph the fruit and veg. I’ve never photographed ice before either, but I can imagine it’s not the easiest of jobs.
Sometimes we use stock imagery and videos to help make our images look much cleaner and computer generated, which helps add that nice commercial high budget field.
Shipyard ale sea clip
For our shipyard header on our homepage we used a mix of underwater stock videos, our own product photography and wave animations on it.
There’s a lot of awful stock imagery out there to pick from, just make sure what you use is the best quality and is best matched to your brand. Budget permitting I think a full photoshoot is always best, but when you are stuck for time and want to add something more to your imagery by adding in images you don’t have the skill, time or budget to add, then using stock can really help.
Written by Daniel Moore
Head of Design