People retain information for much longer when it’s paired with photos, in fact, as visual learners, up to 65% of us prefer images along with text. Our brains are hardwired to process visuals much faster than other types of information so we’ll remember what we read much better.
Knowing this, it’s no wonder that photos and imagery play such a big role in how people see and feel about your brand!
Which brings me to a common question I’m asked by wellness brands. Should you invest in professional brand photos, or save the money and make do with stock photos?
The short answer? There is no right or wrong, it’s actually a matter of ‘when’!
When should you use stock images, and when should you use professional images?
There are lots of things that play a role in making a final decision, and it’s one that should NOT be made lightly.
In this blog post, I’ll be deep-diving into details of stock vs. brand photos, pros, and cons of each, when and how to use them, and some pointers to help along the way.
Stock vs Brand Photos – The Pros and Cons
While there is no definitive winner here, both stock and brand photos have their advantages and disadvantages that influence which option would be best for you…
For some things, there’s no doubt you’ll do better with brand photos. For example, when you want to feature your studio or physical location, there’s no stock photography that can replace the real deal.
For others, you’ll have a much easier time with stock photos, like when you need a fancy background for a motivational post for your Instagram account or want to get an emotion across with certain imagery.
Let’s Start With Stock Images
Stock photos are professional images taken by someone else that are available to businesses and individuals to use as their own. Each of them is licensed under specific terms so some are fully free to use and add your own branding to, others are free if you attribute the author, while some you have to pay for.
Why are they so popular?
People often choose them as the go-to option because it’s easy to get them and it’s much quicker than having a professional photoshoot. There are plenty of decent free stock sites, and even the paid ones are cheaper than hiring a photographer each time!
Stock photos can perfectly fill the gaps in your social and website aesthetics when you need them, and if you just need something generic, work well in a pinch.
The problem with stock photos?
Anyone who pays the license fee can use them, so if you’re looking for uniqueness, it’s not going to help. You can edit the photo and make it more in line with your brand and less obvious that you’re using stock imagery. But you’re unlikely to stand out from competitors in your industry if they are using the same batch of stock photos.
Some ways to reduce this risk is to go for photos that aren’t used as much, but with so many websites, especially in the competitive health and fitness industries, you’ll waste a lot of time trying to find them – and that still doesn’t mean that others won’t find them too.
To sum it up, stock photos are:
- Easy to get
But can also:
- Be used by anyone else with a valid license
- Might be overused by others
- Are not unique to you and your branding
Professional brand photos give lots of value
When it comes to professional brand photos, it is the only way to actually get the exact photo that YOU want and only you have the right to use them. The biggest issue with them is that they cost a lot and it takes up more of your time.
You have to be there for the photoshoot; prepare your studio, services, and products; and the photographer will instruct you on how to pose, behave, laugh, and lots of other things you might not be used to. All of this takes time and might disrupt your routine.
Then again, there’s nothing better when you need a truly unique and genuine representation of your brand. You’re giving your customers or clients an authentic visual experience that helps them become familiar with you, your studio, your sessions, your employees, the location of your business, and everything else that makes your brand special.
When they walk in for the first time, they will already know what to expect, and this sense of familiarity helps build a genuine connection and trust much faster!
With brand photos, you can:
- Build trust
- Set expectations
- Provide authenticity
But they also:
- Cost more
- Take time
- Can’t be used for everything
WHEN to use each of them: Choosing the right type of photo
This is the main thing to remember – it all depends on what YOU want to achieve with YOUR brand.
Going for that personal connection or to be informative about your specific product or service? Then you need brand photos.
Trying to make things look pretty and eye-catching for new prospects? Stock photos will do just fine for most things.
Answering the following five questions will help you decide which stock or brand photo would be better for your situation:
#1 Where will you be using them?
Think about the purpose and location of your photo. What would you be expecting to see if you were a customer or prospect? If they are visiting the ‘About’ page on your website, you would expect to see a photo of you or your team and location. So a brand photoshoot makes sense!
For services, you can go either way – you might be lucky and get some good stock photos that illustrate well what you offer. Just remember, if you’re using stock images on your main pages, to make sure that you don’t imply your products or services will get the results in the images. You’ll get into a lot of legal trouble!
When it comes to social, you can use both stock and brand photos depending on what your intention is. For motivational quotes, you’ll do well with thoughtfully curated stock photos. For product highlights, you will do better with actual product photos!
#2 Do you need the image to create a personal connection?
You can’t create a personal connection with stock photos, well maybe you can, but it takes a while! So, only genuine photos will work here. Going for brand photos helps your potential audience get an inside look at your brand – who you are, who the other people behind the name are, and how your studio/offices look.
All of these are a reflection of your brand and help build the right expectations, which you simply cannot do well with stock photos.
#3 How relatable do you need to be?
Sometimes a professional image helps build authority, and other times, you need something more candid and relatable!
This means you’ll do better with genuine photography that’s not staged, as opposed to stock images or very crisp and professional photoshoots. You obviously don’t need a professional photoshoot for every single photo. If you’re at an event, you can do well with smartphone cameras to give your audience a peek on what’s happening. These photos help the audience to get to know your culture a bit more. The same goes for some behind-the-scenes shots.
Hint: You can go for a professional here who will follow you around and take candid shots without staging! These are also easier for you to prepare for.
#4 Do you have something specific in mind?
You can use keywords to search stock sites that works with generic topics and ideas that have been done before, but if you need something specific or unique, you’ll need to create it yourself.
Make Stock Photos Look Like Brand Photos
There is a happy middle that I tend to recommend when looking at stock vs. brand photos and that is to add branding to stock photos.
Your logo, some creative elements with your brand colours, and your font go a long way to turning a stock image into your own! Of course, the image itself can be used by competitors but potential customers will link the branded version to you!
Just make sure that you have the right licensing in place to make edits to stock images!
Always be in tune with your brand
No matter which photos you choose to share, both stock photos and your very own brand photos have to make sense for your audience and your overall branding.
Go for colours, emotions, and elements that make sense for you and don’t just pick a photo because it’s available. You should give as much thought to stock images as you do to professional images! No matter how high-quality stock images are, if they don’t make sense, they will do more harm than good to be inconsistent with your brand. And that can create feelings of distrust with your audience.
Need help with images and branding that makes sense for you? Get in touch and I’ll help curate imagery and much more that will strengthen your brand presence.