Custom vs Stock Photos

In Stock

A piece of marketing is not complete (or at least, not effective) without some sort of imagery to pull it together. When it comes time to find an image, there are two options: snap a custom photo or use a stock photo.

Ideally, any marketing image utilized should represent the company accurately, and that is often best done by creating a unique image specific to the business. However, there are times when buying a stock photo is quicker and easier than taking a photo and really as effective.

Stock images are pre-designed or photographed images available for licensed use. Stock images can be used for everything from a flyer to an ad to a website. Various sizes of the same image are often available, so a user can find the right file resolution for his or her needs. Additionally, the images can be downloaded instantly.

A critical aspect of using stock photography is the legal considerations. Copyright infringement may include using an image without permission or outside the scope of the license agreement, or asking another photographer or designer to identically recreate the image. Stock photography charges cover usage fees only, and do not represent any ownership of the image.

There are two primary ways to purchase stock imagery: rights managed or royalty-free. Rights managed stock has limitations on duration of use, location, industry, media use, and the like, as established in a license agreement. Rights managed often costs more than royalty-free stock. However, the license can be arranged to allow certain rights, guarantees, and exclusive-use based on the aforementioned limitations.

For royalty-free images, it is critical to note that “free” is not the same as “no cost.” After paying the license fee, there are no additional royalty payments. These images can be purchased for a one-time, fixed cost with nearly unlimited use.

When a custom photography session is not an option, legally-used stock images can be an excellent solution, especially when those stock images properly complement and enhance a marketing campaign.

TIP: Look for photos that appear natural. If it features people, it is preferable to have them active as opposed to posed (e.g., looking at the camera and smiling).

TIP: Remember that the most popular photo is not always ideal, as a competitor might be thinking about purchasing it, too.

TIP: Always read and follow the stock photo service usage rights, as they vary from service to service.

Lime Valley is a full-service marketing communications firm located in Mankato, MN. Its success is built upon the collective experience of its staff. Since 1988, the company has worked with service and retail businesses, manufacturers, educational institutions, non-profits, and civic organizations to provide creative communication solutions. Lime Valley’s in-house services include copywriting, graphic design, media planning, photography, website development, and digital and social media integration.