Stock Photography – Can You Really Afford It?

Why Use Stock Photography?

For many years advertisers have taken advantage of lower pricing for generic stock photography for their marketing efforts, whether for print advertising or for website use. Professional photography costs money, and stock photography is cheap. But there’s a dirty little secret in the use of stock. You may have no control over who else is using the same image to represent their company. This can lead to customer confusion and marketing embarrassment. Just ask the marketing departments at Dell and Gateway computers.

Dell and Gateway use the same stock photography model for competing ads

In the earlier days of stock photography it was harder to track who else was using an image. In one particular season, both Dell computers and Gateway computers selected stock images for their back to school advertising. Unfortunately they selected images of the same model, in the same wardrobe, in front of the same building, from the same photo shoot. And the ads ran at the same time! It somewhat waters down your advertising message when the same girl appears to endorse your competition!

Wanadoo selects a popular stock photo model
Even if you change the color of the clothing and flip the photo, it's still the same model

How To Use Stock Photography

So how do you avoid this type of embarrassment? There are two primary ways. One method would be using rights-managed (RM) images rather than royalty-free (RF) images, and the other would be to use custom photography.

Royalty-Free Images

RF images are by far the cheapest. They are sold to anyone and everyone, and you have no idea who else may be using that image. You may use an online source like Tin Eye (https://tineye.com/) to search for other websites hosting your same image. Alternately you may use Google’s Image search to look for the same thing. That will give you an idea of how many times that image is being used online, although neither may know of all uses of an image.

Rights-Managed Images

Alternately you may purchase RM images, which come at a higher price. The benefit of RM is that you can ensure that either no one uses that image for a set length of time, or at least that no one else in your industry uses it. Pricing varies based on how much exclusivity you want and for how long. This is usually considered to be the best compromise between bulk RF images and custom photography.

The Safest Solution: Custom Photography

The other option would be to contract custom photography by a professional photographer. There are numerous advantages to this option, although it will come at a higher price tag. You have total control over all elements of an image – colors, style, your own colors or branding, and more importantly the usage. A professional photographer can create images using your own employees, or models you select, and can guarantee that only you have the right to use those images. Further, the models can be contracted to not work (or have their images used) with a competing company. Recent advertising showing the former “Can you hear me now” guy representing a competing telecom beautifully highlights this problem.

The Verizon guy goes to Sprint

What message does this give your customers when a (now) well-known spokesman leaves your company to go to the competition?

Custom photography can and will reinforce your brand, and over time build a familiarity with which your customers can relate. Is it worth it? Only your customers and accountant can tell you that, but (in my humble opinion) images that are created specifically for your company are going to resonate more, which should lead to a greater ROI for you and your bottom line. To learn how custom photography can help your company give Morton Visuals a call at (888) 239-6213. We’ll be happy to brainstorm with you and your marketing department.