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Why Say No To Stock Photography?

By: Karen Haberberg

Stock photography has been around for decades, and there are a multitude of reasons that it has survived so long. To begin this discussion, we must first answer the question, why do people use stock photography? The answer is simple: it's affordable, easy, and accessible. Stock photo agencies have made it very simple to search for and identify photographs, make a purchase, download the images, and implement them into your marketing campaign. So why give it up?


Stock photography tends to feel generic, contrived, and staged. In essence, the images are almost always retrofitted to a website’s content, health campaign, or marketing materials. In these cases, rather than the images being developed and designed for your specific needs, the images are chosen from an already existing pool, creating a disconnect with images feeling impersonal and inauthentic.


Remember, stock photography is not original artwork. The same image can be purchased over and over again, and you may see the image you purchased used by multiple competitors and ad campaigns. When this happens, the message you are sending to your clients is that your company is not trustworthy, authentic, or deeply concerned with the image you are portraying to the public.


A study done by Nielson documented that users pay close attention to real photos that contain relevant information but ignore contrived stock photographs used to fill up space on web pages. https://www.nngroup.com/articles/photos-as-web-content/


Stock photography is also not controllable. There is no creative input regarding subjects, background, environment, lighting, props, wardrobe, facial expressions, etc. Sometimes companies will even use images of office spaces that barely resemble their own. When your client visits the office for the first time, they will quickly realize that they have been deceived.


As a result, including portraits of actual employees or consumers on company websites has become increasingly important to a company’s image. Overly staged images of people who clearly aren’t employees, or patients in the case of healthcare marketing, make a company seem un-relatable, uninviting, and not believable.


Promoting a look and feel of your company that is honest, accurate, and true is paramount in this day and age when so much portrayed on social media can be questionable. What better way to value patients and employees than by making them the face of the company, not random models who have no investment in your company mission or brand.


Personal and commissioned photography can be crafted to strengthen your brand’s message. While stock photographs can be used in a pinch, creating original content that is customizable and unique to your company’s vision is irreplaceable and WILL pay off in the end.