Photography: Original vs. Stock


I just read a story about an Art Director that saw an image on the packaging of a TV and then later saw the same image on a billboard ad for cosmetic surgery. Does this mean the TV needs a facelift or is the facelift going to be shown on TV?


As a photographer I am always going to suggest getting original photography done for your business. I have my own motives of course, but there is more to it than that. Your brand depends on it.


Why spend the money on original photography when there are literally billions of images out there? Why play the lottery when there are literally billions of tickets sold every day?  In one of these scenarios someone is going to win and win big. In the other at least two businesses are going to lose, big time.


In the story I read the writer closed saying that he has “a permanent negative perception” of both the TV and the cosmetic surgeon. In both ads the same stock image was used and recognized. Stock is a great choice if you don’t have the budget for a photographer. The surgeon may be more hurt than the TV manufacturer because he/she has a smaller audience and hence a greater percentage of the business can be affected. The TV manufacturer has a broader client base and only need worry about that particular city. Both are affected but to different degrees.



You may think that your budget is similar to the surgeon’s in that it also draws from a smaller demographic. Because of that you have to consider stock photography because it has less impact on your budget. But does it?


If you have 500 customers and you lose only 100 of them, you lose 1/5 of your overall budget. What does the TV manufacturer lose when they lose 100 customers?  Will they even notice? Granted they probably should have at least spent the money to have exclusive rights to that image and believe me, if the CEO hears about it they will get asked why they didn’t. But still, they are less damaged by that duplicate use than the small to medium sized business.


But how do you advertise when a photo shoot seems to be such a large part of the advertising budget? How can you make it practical? That is where professional photographers like myself come in. By talking to me and telling me the whole story my clients can assure themselves they are getting a good deal and a great return on their investment.


When I know that I am only going to have one opportunity to get images for you that will have to last you the entire year, I am going to work hard for you on the front end to plan that shoot so that you have more images to work with. Sure, when we are shooting your entire year’s worth of images at one time it’s going to take more time. However with planning and careful layout of the shoot we can get you the images you need in perhaps two full days of shooting. If previously you were thinking you had to do one shoot for a quarter for your advertising, you were probably looking at 4 shoots in a year. By planning that full year in advance you have just reduced your spend by half. All while you have saved your business the embarrassment of using an image that someone else has advertising, say, portable toilets!


By using original photography in your branding and advertising you are showing your clients that you are special and they should do business with the best.

2 replies
  1. Michael
    Michael says:

    Chris, I hope that post is lined with sarcasm, but I can understand the negative attitude. Its fine to use stock images. I just feel that if you are going to use stock, but exclusive rights. Spend a little bit more and get an identity. Don’t trust that your company is the only one to use an image.

    As for Photos on websites being eye candy, Perhaps. But then again perhaps images in National Geographic and Sports Illustrated are eye candy too. Its not possible that they could actually tell a story. Could they?

    Now THAT is sarcasm.

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