Stock Photos vs. Original Photography: What Should You Use?

To use stock photos or not, that is the question. While some say never still others say always, we choose to remain in the middle  here and say that there is a time and a place to use stock photos AND actual photography. 

Let’s face it, when you see a stock photo more often than not, it is very posed and cheesy which doesn’t send the right message for your content. While they sometimes make great memes and images for internal use, stock photos don’t always say exactly what you might need them to say. On the other hand, unless you are a very skilled photographer with a studio and unlimited time, you won’t always get to take the shot that you need or have access to the equipment to do so. Thus, a happy balance between stock and real photos can be achieved. 

How is that possible? Finding un-staged images that resonate best with your content is possible, it just takes some time. There are hundreds of sites out there for stock photos ranging from free and pay per image to monthly or annual subscription based plans. Do your research. Find the site or sites that display images to compliment your content without seeming overly posed. At the same time, consider utilizing a coworker or friend who is skilled with a camera for some of your content. You can also consider curating your own images from time to time if you know the type of images you plan to use. Keeping a number of curated photographs mixed in with more 'real' stock images will keep your image content balanced and give you room to remain creative and make your point with professional as well as fun imagery.

Now that you have a few resources, how do you know where to use stock images and where to use real photography? There are some mediums where only real photography will work. For example, during live events, on social media, and in niche marketing materials are all examples that would require using real photographs. Social and digital ads, blogs, your website, and other marketing collateral are all examples of where you would use stock photos. There will be exceptions here and there, but for the most part, those examples can be applied across the board. Remember, there is never a right or wrong type of image unless it doesn’t work with your content.

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