Photo stock vs. Photo-shoot: 4 reasons you should drop stock photos

21 March 2017
Fortunesplaining, Image, Marketing, Web

When to shoot and when to buy for an authentic image and higher traffic

Marketing in the age of visual culture

We live in a visual culture. 10% of all the pictures in humanity were taken in the past year. Articles with pictures gather 94% more views than ones with only text. 60% of consumers are more likely to choose a local business if a picture of the facilities appears when they Google it (as opposed to only a logo). This tells us one thing: we like looking at pictures.

This visual culture must absolutely be transferred into business culture. This is where stock photo databases come in, such as Fotolia, Adobe Stock Photos, Photo Dune, Masterfile, Lorempixel, and more. These databases let you access thousand of low-cost, professional-looking images, called stock photos. Pretty cool!

Yes, but.

“Stock photos are like visual Lorem Ipsum”

Images in marketing should serve 3 functions:

  • Reflect the company values;
  • Be relevant to the user;
  • Present information words cannot convey.

This is where stock photos become problematic: they can’t possibly convey the unique nature of your business.

David, founder at Fortune Lab and web savant, puts it best: “Stock photos are like visual Lorem Ipsum: they fill the blank, they look ok from far away, they’re fine in the meantime, but they add no information”.

Generic vs. Authentic

Take a look at these pictures. What do you notice?
The one on the left is sleek, sharp, and pretty professional. But it’s also generic, staged, and we don’t really buy into what it’s selling, whatever that is. It is a stock photo.

The one on the right shows a perfectly imperfect scene. We can recognize the people and the background as realistic. It is not as polished, but it is authentic: it is an original photo.

4 reasons to drop stock photos

1. People are desensitized to stock photos

Our eyes have become so used to the generic feel of stock images that they have become invisible to us, literally. Researchers have analyzed the way the eyes scan a web page and have discovered that users will spend more time looking at images that add information (pictures of the facilities, of the team, of the shop, of the products sold, etc.) or images representing people, as long as these people are real. The subconscious is not easily fooled by stock photos!

2. You could increase your trust by 45%

When I see a page overflowing with stock photos, I will assume the company is hiding something.

Another study was conducted with a New York moving company’s website. When the stock photo of a generic couple holding boxes they were using was replaced by an original pictures of the moving team and the truck they use, they saw a 45% increase in the number ‘Request a quote’ leads from the website.

The takeaway: don’t be afraid to show your staff. An original photograph of people, facilities, or the service you provide will show the potential client that even if a cold screen separates you, he is dealing with real people.

3. The return on investment in undeniable

Chances are a photo shoot is less expensive than you think. Let’s talk numbers: a photo shoot can cost anywhere between $300 and $1,000, depending on editing, shooting process and touch-up times. This is obviously a gross estimation (talk to one of our experts to get a quote specific to your needs), but the benefits are beyond doubt. The photo shoot will pay for itself in no time.

4. You avoid ending up with the same images as your competitor

If you found the stock photo of your dreams, chances are you aren’t the only one who likes it.


Is this little girl perfect for your big winter sale? This picture has been downloaded over 11,000 times in only one year!

And what about Rebecca Ariane Givens? This international model is widely unknown, yet her face is highly recognizable because of the incredible number of stock photos she is featured in. Her face has been used for zumba classes, ice cream, computer software, and a healthy lifestyle. Just one Google search reveals the extent of her (excessive?) visibility. Ups!

In conclusion, if you’re deciding between stock photos and original photos, you really get what you pay for. A photo shoot always comes out on top if you want to stand out from your competitors. No photo stock in the world could ever convey the chemistry between your employees, the cleanliness of your facilities, or the smile of your satisfied customers.

This being said, stock photos are still useful sometimes. Designers often use them for secondary content, like a button, a banner, or to dress up a Facebook post. Because, let’s be real, sometimes it’s better to have an online presence with okay content than not to be online at all. Just don’t forget to replace those generic boring pictures with original ones as soon as you can.
Investing in a photo shoot means arming yourself with a unique feel that you can use in all your marketing material, for a cohesive and powerful digital footprint.
Do you still have questions about visual marketing?

Talk to one of our consultants to find the marketing strategy that works for you.

“Investing in a photo shoot means investing in a powerful digital footprint”

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