In the process of developing a brand, updating collateral, or building a new website, marketers are faced with the important question: Do I use stock or custom images?
A few of the most common mediums marketers will be faced with choosing between stock or custom imagery are: Photography, video, illustrations and graphics, and animation.
Below, we analyze the benefits and disadvantages of both options.
– Variety and vastness of options
– Available to anyone
– Can be generic
– Quality control
– All original artwork
– Control final product
– Investment in effective branding
– Longer timeline of deliverables
Overall, the point of imagery here is to engage your audience. The art should be compelling and help deliver a powerful message consistent with your brand. It is an extension of your company and should support key messaging.
One major issue with stock artwork, however, is that it can fall flat. It can feel vanilla and unmoving. The other problem is that it lacks exclusivity – any company can use the exact same images, and the scariest part is your competitors can, too.
Custom artwork, on the other hand, is made specifically for your project. The original art is 100 percent exclusive to your business. It also adds a humanizing element. People connect with people, and this method allows your brand to directly connect and resonate with your customers, creating a higher level of authenticity and trust.
Although it will likely cost more, custom art is an incredibly worthwhile investment.
The road to custom imagery, conversely, can be a longer one and may not be the best choice for those who need instant gratification. With the click of a button, anyone can download stock art. This option is not only easily accessible, but it can be more affordable.
This brings me to my next point: Budget. Determining your budget is crucial as it will dictate what options are available to you. Stock art is very economical; you can purchase (and in some cases, even download for free) royalty-free stock photos, illustrations, and video. And, if you develop an eye for it—steering away from the generic and unrealistic images—you can find some stock art that is tasteful and artistic.
If you have a limited budget, here are a few well-curated resources with a healthy mix of stock imagery that you can peruse for upcoming projects: Unsplash, Gallery Stock, and Stocksy.
But, here are a few examples of when you should seriously consider hiring a photographer:
- If you need staff photos or collaboration shots to create a personal feel and a level of trust
- If you need management, executive, or C-suite headshots
- If you’re selling a product or launching a new product
- If your company provides an experiential service. For instance, if you offer horseback riding in the mountains of Vermont or a Dead Sea clay body wrap treatment at a day spa, photos of the actual trail ride or spa treatment would realistic and inviting. Stock photos of trail guides that customers will never meet in a forest hundreds of miles away could be construed as misleading, and generic photos of hands massaging a back would be uninspiring.
To me, there really is no comparison. Custom imagery will win the debate nearly every time. But, I understand that small budgets are big factors here, so I leave you with this: Whatever you decide, remember to tell a consistent visual story that aligns with your brand, and try to remain as authentic and memorable as possible.