Dos and Don'ts of Using Stock Photography vs. Original Imagery

By Danielle Eckert

When it comes to content, most consumers want to see obtainable imagery, something that they would either see in real life or something that they look at and say “I could do that.” Brands often use stock photography as a cost-efficient way of legally creating image-filled content. However, these images can often look hokey and manufactured. How does a brand determine when to put the time and funds toward producing original imagery? Here are a few simple do’s and don’ts of using stock photography vs. original images.

Don't use stock imagery on Instagram. People want to see real content that they could have taken with their mobile phone. As a best practice, actually use your phone to take the content. (Tip: Natural light is the best lighting for your phone's camera.)

Don't put copy over the image if you are using an original image. Remember that rule KISS? Keep it simple, keep it clean.

Do use minimal product placement with your original images. This is the time to showcase your product in its natural setting.

Don’t photoshop your product into stock photography. Don’t waste your time in photoshop for 3 hours. It's easier to snap a photo of the product.

Don't try to pass stock photography off as real content. All the filters in the world won't mask that overexposed stock photo feeling.

Do invest in a good stock photography site. If you must use stock photography, don’t skimp on the free sites. Most of the free sites have outdated imagery. The best stock photography sites are under the Getty umbrella (i.e. ThinkStock, Istock, etc.).

Don't over photoshop stock imagery. The more photoshopping, the less engagement. If the image is a simple set up, purchase the products and take the image yourself.

Do understand your brand's position. If your client sells food, clothing, or something product-based, real content is much more successful. If your provides a service that is medical or professional, stock photography will have more engagement.

What are some other ways you choose between stock photos and original images? Answer in the comments below.