Stock photos are a useful tool for anyone needing images for just about anything. From blogs to powerpoints, stock images pop up everywhere. But do they actually add the value that you intend them to, or are they taking away from your work?
What are Stock Photos?
Stock photos are any images provided free or for a small fee that can be downloaded and used an unlimited number of times. They are on whatever topic the creator has chosen and there are no restrictions on who can use them or where they can be used. Many sites provide stock images, the most well known of which is Shutterstock since they have the biggest library of images. To access them you need a subscription but you can see the preview images with the trademark Shutterstock logo pasted across. That logo disappears with the purchase of a subscription and a small amount of money goes towards the creator each time their image is downloaded. No recognition has to be given to the creator although some websites, such as Unsplash, do prompt users to add a link to the creator’s Unplash page when they download a photo.
Where are they used?
These images appear most often in blog posts and start-up websites. Often because it is a far cheaper alternative to getting a photographer to create images for them. And with the millions of images available online, you can find a picture to accompany almost any topic or subject matter imaginable. As well as this, in the case of blog posts, hiring a photographer for every post would in most cases cost more than the revenue from the post itself. All in all, stock images seem to be essential, and in some places they are.
Why should you be avoiding them?
There is a certain look, a certain appearance to stock images that even an untrained eye can spot from a mile off. Images used on your page need to reflect your companies individuality. Using stock photos is a great way to get your site lost in the sea of similar pages. All fighting over the same clicks and viewers as you are.
Whether stock photos should be used depends massively on what context they are being used in. As previously mentioned, they are ideal for blog posts. A quick visual to suggest what the post is about and to get interested people to stop and click. For a website that is offering a product or service, stock images are rarely the answer. You need images of your own events, your own colleges and your own products. Not of anyone else’s. Each image needs to be coherent and flow with the rest of your site. Images should be used as another way for a potential customer to understand your brand and make a decision whether to do business with you. And for that to be the case, the images need to come from the company themselves.
This image https://unsplash.com/photos/e4lD50CCekA has been downloaded over 15,000 times, that is 15,000 other places this image could be being used. Using an image like this will drop your site into a pool of other sites with the same photograph. And therefore with the same look and feel as your site.
=What should you do?
Sites such as Shutterstock do still have a place in your business, you just need to start using them differently. Find an image you like, that fully encompasses all your business is, or find the source of an image you are already using and contact the photographer. Set up a brief, explain what you want and use their own photo as a guide. Then pay them directly to create an image just for you. One that no one else can use. This not only negates all the issues with using stock images, but it will also mean all your money goes directly to the creator helping everyone out in the process.