Stock photography is easy to spot. It shouts "I am generic, not genuine."
Compare the two photos below.
For both photos, the subject matter is a homeless man. The left photo is taken from a photo shoot at Atlanta Mission. The right was one of the first images to pop up when I searched “homeless” on istockphoto.com.
The photo on the left captures a special once-in-a-lifetime moment that would be impossible to replicate. The story and emotion behind it will live on for years. The photo on the right is not genuine or moving. Instead it is quite offensive and stereotypes what “homelessness” looks like.
Here are a few thoughts on why it pays for brands to go the extra mile and use real photography:
1. Authenticity: People are not easily fooled. Stock photography is easy to spot. It’s often overly polished or staged. Websites are notorious for using stock. Audiences know that stock photos really have little or nothing to do with telling more about the company. Having the photo there is just as well as not using a photo at all.
2. Duplications: I have come across many instances where the same exact stock photo is on a billboard for one company and then seen on the cover of the magazine of another completely different company. How will this make your brand stand out amongst the sea of competitors?
2. Budget: At first glance, it often seems easier, faster and cheaper to use stock photography. However, the amount of time it takes to sort through stock photography and then select and purchase photos actually ends up being more expensive in the long run than doing a 2-day shoot. Real photos also have a longer shelf life and will start to create a visual legacy of the brand.
Special thanks to Andrew Thomas Lee for his beautiful work on the Atlanta Mission photos.