Let me preface by saying there are some really, really good photos and illustrations available on stock photography sites. I certainly don’t fault people for using them – for (usually) under $100, you can get yourself a great royalty-free image that fits your needs. It’s easy, affordable and does the job. I think there are lots of instances in which using stock photography, like those found at iStockPhoto, are worthwhile.
But rather than instantly head for a stock photo site to compliment your content marketing or any other marketing projects you’re taking on, you may want to think about some of the cons:
Your Competition Is Using The Same Images
This is a true story of one of those worst case scenarios:
A friend of mine works in a niche market. Her company decided to refresh their brand – new website, some microsites, new printed marketing materials – the whole bit, in preparation for a major industry expo and conference. Rather than go with a photographer to capture original images associated with their business, they went for royalty-free stock photography for everything.
Turns out, a few other companies had the same thing in mind. The *exact* same thing in mind. When my friend arrived at the expo, proudly hauling her new materials, she stopped in her tracks. Not only was the booth directly beside hers using the identical imagery, so were two other companies at the conference. Quelle Horreur! Apparently, it was just like that scene from Bring It On when the Kirsten Dunst’s squad has to go up and perform their supposedly-original spirit fingers routine after another squad had surprisingly just performed it at regionals (and don’t even pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about). There were literally two banners being hung side-by-side with the same picture but with different logos next to each.
That example may seem a bit extreme, but I’ve personally worked on campaigns where I’ve seen the same stock images our client insisted on being used by other companies all over the place. It really does happen all the time.
Your Team Looks Nothing Like This (And We All Know It)
Unless you work in a modeling agency, we’re pretty sure these aren’t the faces of your employees:
We’re not suggesting your company is filled with fugly, but we doubt you’re running a business where only beautiful, ethnically-diverse people with great teeth and smart suits are running the roost. If you have an “About Us” section on your website or in your marketing materials and you put up a picture that is not “us”, it may come across as disingenuous. Plus, it’s far more interesting to see the actual brains behind the operation – show ‘em off!
You Want To Be An Original
While there is certainly more and more variety out there, I can spot a photo from a stock site practically instantly. It’s like I have gaydar for images – and I’m sure I’m not alone. If you’ve put the time into developing quality, original content and developed a great content marketing campaign why not go the extra step and ensure your visuals are just as fresh and unique?
By going to a photographer, you can guarantee custom images that show off your company’s personality, capture the exact kind of image you need for your purposes and own them outright – no one but your company can ever use them. You may also want to consider an illustrator. Their work can sometimes make your content marketing and other marketing materials pop more than anything. Just take a look at the wonderful indie music website, Daytrotter, to see how it’s worked for them) – they’re known for it, in fact.