Capturing the attention of your ideal client base with high impact visuals is undoubtedly one of the key objectives within your digital marketing strategy.

We’ve written this blog to address the fundamental differences in relation to the stock imagery vs. custom photography dichotomy, which, let’s face it, most SME’s will come up against in the early years between launching their brand and growing their business. Why? Because the speed of delivery and the cost to deliver anything in any business is so important; and rightly so. But I’ll get back to that comparison shortly.

As a specialist digital marketing photography agency, naturally we are passionate about creating authentic imagery to fuel our clients’ online marketing campaigns. But we have genuinely set out to put any ounce of bias aside here, and truly audition the pros and cons of artificial stock vs. real photography.

Whether you know it or like it or not, if you have a need for website imagery, or an online campaign of any description, you’ve got something to sell, be it a product, service, knowledge or something else. But ultimately if you want someone to buy anything from a product to a concept, the first thing a potential customer needs to buy into is your brand. Far be it from me to suggest that imagery is a sole aspect in that notion; it’s not. But assuming that you have a reputable brand, selecting the right imagery is absolutely crucial if your online campaign is going to be successful.

Earlier I mentioned that speed and cost are two factors that typically affect decision making in an organisation, along with quality of course. We recently explored the truth behind this with some local business owners in relation to how they source imagery for their online marketing campaigns, and lo and behold, we changed a few mind-sets. In all cases, we spoke to businesses that used stock imagery instead of real photography, and there were three common justifications which we helped to overcome. Here’s how…

1. Hiring a Photographer to shoot Brand Photography is expensive

If you assume the average output of a full day lifestyle product photoshoot for your brand is in the region of 200 images, the monthly cost of a CBZ Gold image Plan is equal to (if not cheaper than) the same amount of imagery from a subscription to a premium stock imagery website.

This is not including the cost of your time spent searching for imagery online.

We are aware that free stock imagery websites exist but are working on the assumption that you are at least going to some degree of expense to differentiate your brand.

2. Stock imagery is quicker to access than arranging a photoshoot

It’s very much like booking a holiday – you can go to a Travel Agent and avoid the painstaking hours of searching the internet until you find the right hotel to suit your criteria, or you can clock up billable hours browsing the web until the cows come home, with only yourself to hold liable if you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for, while you potentially end up with something substandard because you rushed to make a decision after realising how much valuable time you’ve wasted.

A metaphor of course but, my point is that searching for suitable imagery is probably not an efficient use of your time and let’s face it – it’s not a quick task, especially if you want to represent your business as accurately as possible in the absence of authentic brand photography.

3. Stock Images are high quality

Stock images are high-res (as are those supplied by a professional photographer) but that doesn’t mean they’re ‘high quality’. To us, ‘quality’ is a reference to the suitability of the imagery to reflect your business, product or specific message. This simply cannot be achieved when a brand advertises itself with someone else’s imagery that hasn’t been shot with a purpose or the desired outcome of a campaign in mind.

Creative imagery that has been captured to portray the essence of your brand will be entirely unique, evidently authentic and subsequently much more engaging to your online audience. Not to mention, it will be yours to own forever without any licensing restrictions.

Going back to what I said earlier about the need for a potential customer to buy into your brand before buying your product - imagery plays an important role in this challenge. Using custom photography subconsciously delivers the message that you operate a business that takes pride in its offering and brand identity. Your audience is given this impression when you showcase your own brand imagery rather than something generic that is also used by others, and your boss will thank you for it when your campaign delivers real interaction and results.

Below is an example of three stock images of kinesiology tape. They’re completely generic and could be used on any physiotherapist’s website anywhere in the world to demonstrate the application of the tape which, in the absence of any imagery is better than no imagery. However, there’s no branding, no faces, nothing unique and nothing to relate to.

We used this as an example to compare the imagery to a real-life client who supplies this exact product. The second set of images below are not too dissimilar at first glance but the difference they achieve on so many levels is vast. They show brand, creativity, actual brand ambassadors adding value to the product by demonstrating it in action and, above all, they’re unique, which in itself illustrates a business that is proud to showcase it’s products.

You can see more examples of authentic imagery we’ve created for our clients in our online gallery although our website simply isn’t big enough to showcase all of our work, so feel free to get in touch for a tailor made gallery of photos from our portfolio that are most suited to demonstrate our experience in your industry.