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    Pros and Cons of Stock Photos for Business

    [fa icon="clock-o"] Wed, Dec 13, 2017 [fa icon="user"] Joseph Rolfe [fa icon="folder-open'] Website, Marketing Advice

    Believe it or not, stock photos first came about in the 1920’s. Since their conception, stock photos can now be found in every corner of the web and on just about every site in existence. Even though they present a great opportunity for photographers across the globe, it gets a little tricky for business. Depending on your content strategy and the way you plan on using them, stock photos can either hurt your brand or help it. In this article, we’re going to discuss the pros and cons of stock photos, as well as when to use them and when to avoid them.

    Related: 6 Copyright-Free Stock Photo Sites for Business Use 

    Pros and Cons of Using Stock Photos

    What Are Stock Photos?

    Stock photos are pictures taken by photographers without any specific assignment, which are then sent to a stock house to be licensed and sold. Depending on the quality and type of licensing, stock photos can go for as low as a few cents, all the way up to a couple thousand dollars for one. Because the topics of stock photos are left entirely up to the photographers themselves, they can be pictures of just about anything and suit a variety of needs.

    Pros of Stock Photos

    Save Time

    Custom photos require you to hire a photographer, organize a photo shoot, and go through a lengthy editing process to produce a few (or maybe even one) good pictures. Stock photos eliminate the need for all of that by giving you a huge selection to choose from, available for instant download once you make the purchase.

    Versatile Applications

    There are hundreds of thousands of stock photos out there, and, as a result, there happens to be a ton of different ways you can use them. It’s easy to select simple pictures with broad applications or something more niche and targeted.

    Easy Manipulation

    With stock photos, you can easily manipulate the properties and tailor them to fit your exact needs. It’s also going to differentiate the photo more so it doesn’t look as generic.

    High Quality

    Hiring a professional photographer to take some custom photos for you can get pretty costly. Stock photos give you access to high-quality images for a fraction of the cost. The best part? They’ll look great when viewed across all platforms.

    Cons of Stock Photos


    You have to be careful when using stock photos to make sure you’re not using pictures in a way that overstep the boundaries of the license. Using a stock photo for purposes not covered by the license can lead to costly repercussions.

    Lack Authenticity

    You know when you’re looking at a stock photo. They just have a certain fakey “feel” to them that you can’t really explain. By that same token, your target audience will know when they’re looking at a real picture that was taken solely for the purpose of the content they’re reading.

    Anyone Can Use Them

    Because anyone can buy stock photos, it’s not uncommon to find popular pictures floating around on other websites (maybe even your competitors). Nothing is tackier than using the same photo that several other companies used for similar purposes.

    When To Use Stock Photos

    When You’re in a Bind

    If you have a time-sensitive promotional offer or marketing campaign that needs to go out ASAP, stock photography can come to save the day. You can quickly find a beautiful stock photo that’s ready to go, ensuring your content gets published according to schedule.

    Important Messages

    With some content pieces, text is king. When the message is more important than the image that goes with it, you have more freedom to use stock photos to complement your point. They’re simply there to make it more aesthetically pleasing while keeping the focal point on the words.

    Brand Support

    When it comes to promoting your business with content, if you don’t have a library full of customized, branded pictures, stock photos are perfect. You may have to do a little more searching to ensure they have the right colors and overall feel, but it’s going to look much better than throwing in a poorly taken picture that you haven’t had the time to properly edit.

    When To Avoid Stock Photos

    Social Media Content

    Social media is run almost entirely on visual content. As such, you need something that is going to truly stand out and be unique. When people see stock photos, their eyes tend to glaze over and all of the interest they had evaporates to the next news feed item. Take the time to create your own custom photos. They do a better job of grabbing and holding attention.

    Culture Content

    Never use stock photos to represent your culture with photos of a stock model. If you’re trying to brand your company and give it a unique flavor, you want to show visitors the real team behind the curtain. In this way, you’re able to control the energy level visitors experience and make your brand come across however you want it to.

    It’s Overused

    If you’re considering using a stock photo, make sure you avoid the popular cliches that every company uses, especially if your competition is using it. The last thing you want to do is publish content, whether it be an article or an ad, with the same picture that your competitor used recently in their content.

    Ways to Optimize Stock Photos

    Title & Logo

    Putting a title and logo on stock photos you use are some of the most important first steps. It’s going to brand the photo and instantly give it less of a generic feel. By that same token, never use a stock photo to create your brand’s logo!

    Property Customization

    It’s also a good idea to change the color, add filters, and even crop the photo in unique ways. Programs like Canva, Photoshop, and Gimp make all of this easier than ever.

    Image SEO

    Pictures are just as important as text when it comes to ranking in search engines. Not only are they going to help give the article some context, but because people are visual creatures, they’re more likely to click on content that’s visually appealing. Here’s how to optimize your images for search.

    Joseph Rolfe

    Written by Joseph Rolfe

    Inbound Marketing Manager at Dispatch Media Group

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