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Stock Photography Could Be Meeting Your Needs but Killing Your Brand

Jun 10, 2015 10:38:12 AM

With free tools available online, almost anyone can publish decent compositions of text and images seen by millions in minutes. But just as having a driver’s license doesn’t make you a Formula One racer, access to stock photography doesn’t always beget great creative.

Offering inexpensive images for virtually any marketing occasion, these assets do serve a valuable purpose. Yet for brands hoping to elevate themselves above the fray, they can also give the impression that you’re much like everyone else.

Custom photography can be a good alternative—one more economical than it may seem.

Major bang for the buck

For all its pluses and minuses, stock photography is a staple for modern-day marketers. To be sure, in our quest to produce high-impact, cost-effective creative, my colleagues and I spend many hours perusing sites like iStock® and Shutterstock® to find the best shots we can.

These typically run $150 to $500 for royalty-free photos, often $1,000 or more for rights-managed ones, depending on usage. Marketers looking for an even better bargain can turn to the increasing number of free photo sites like Creative Commons and Wikimedia Commons.

Mildly spiced, and always filling

But for all their convenience, stock photo sites are a bit like the drive-through burger joints of the creative business, loaded with generic images of well-posed subjects in often highly contrived settings. These photos are taken not to amaze with their artistic flair, but to sell by appealing to the broadest possible audience.

Worse for your brand, they offer the same “ingredients” available to your competition, making it hard to develop a truly distinctive look so essential for differentiation.

It certainly helps that GettyImages® and other vendors offer “exclusive” content available only through their site, which can narrow the playing field.

Made-to-order can make all the difference

If you want something that promises to satisfy fast, stock photography is fine. But if you want to set yourself apart by enticing people to come and continue “dining” on your brand, you need to serve up something special. Custom photography can help.

Custom costs, but pays off big

When you factor photographer day rates of $2,000 or more in some cases, model talent upwards of $150 to $200 per hour, together with creative direction and supervision costs, custom photography is by far the most expensive option. But is it really? Consider this: Say you get several hundred great shots from an all-day custom photo shoot. Amortize the cost over the course of multiple projects and, say, a three-year shelf life and eliminate concerns about recurring fees, plus time spent searching for photos, and the return on investment starts looking quite attractive.

Most importantly, with custom photography you’ll have a vast library of truly inimitable visual assets with which to build distinctive marketing communications—imagery that is literally all about you, your people, your products and your organization—photos your competition can never use.

Put your brand in the best possible light

Together with powerful and unique value propositions, customized photography can be a very cost-effective way to stand out from the crowd, and show just how “photogenic” your brand truly is.

Michael Walton

Written by Michael Walton

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