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Stock Images Vs. Original Images


Stock Images Vs. Original Images (What to Use for Your Website)

Greg Macdonald - LWDA Team Member


Managing Director


PUBLISHED:April 13, 2023

UPDATED:July 3, 2023

Images are a powerful resource that helps attract the audience’s attention and appeals to their emotions.

According to studies, more than 65% of people are visual learners. This means that with relevant imagery, marketers can effectively illustrate their products, services, and message in ways that text cannot. Above all, the right photos can change the entire presentation of a website and create an engaging experience for visitors

But when it comes to using images on your website, the question arises whether to use Stock Photos or Original Pictures. 

In this article, we will discuss both forms of images to help you decide which option is best suited for your website. We have you covered whether you are a business owner looking to escalate your website or someone who wants to create an online presence for their personal projects. Read on to find more!

Stock Photos

Stock images are pre-existing and readily available pictures on the internet. They are captured by professional photographers and graphic designers in various niches for use in commercial and personal projects. 

You will find many websites on the internet offering high-quality and affordable stock pictures. Some of these are available for free, while others require you to pay a nominal licensing fee.

Pros of Using Stock Photos

Over the years, stock photos have gained immense popularity for their vast database and enhanced convenience. With so many creative options, stock pictures are the preferred choice of many marketers and individuals alike. A few benefits of using stock photos for your website include:

1. High Quality

Generally, stock photos boast high quality and a professional appearance. This is because they are shot by experts who are armed with the finest gear and proven photography skills to produce these pictures. 

Plus, most reputable stock photography websites have rigorous vetting methods and only accept high-quality pictures. Therefore, using stock photos will give your website a professional and polished appearance without a heavy financial commitment.

2. Huge Variety

Another advantage of using stock pictures is their massive database. You are not limited to a specific genre, location, or style with stock photographs. Instead, you can access millions of pictures with a single click, making your search easy – regardless of the project or theme. 

3. Affordable

Stock photos are relatively inexpensive when compared to hiring a professional photographer or graphic designer for custom pictures. The stock photo websites also offer bulk subscription packages, further lowering the pictures’ price. 

The cost-saving benefit is beneficial for small businesses and individuals who lack sufficient funds for professional pictures. With suitable stock photographs, they can easily compete with the ‘visual branding’ of larger organizations with more budget for custom pictures. 

4. Time-Saving

Additionally, recruiting a professional for a photoshoot can be time-consuming. Especially if you are on a tight deadline, the wait time for the processing of custom photos can be daunting. 

However, stock photos are readily available and eliminate the need to create images from scratch. Hence, they are a time-saving solution for those who need high-quality and cost-effective visual assets – quickly!

Cons of Stock Photos

Although there are numerous advantages to using stock images for your website, there are cons too.  A few disadvantages of stock pictures include:

1. Lack of Creativity

Stock photos follow a one-size-fits-all approach. They are created without any particular project in mind and may lack the specific elements required to convey your brand message. Some stock photos are also very generic and fail to connect emotionally with the audience. This can make it difficult to create truly compelling visual content that resonates with your prospects and marketing goals. 

2. Not Exclusive

Stock photos are accessible to everyone, and there is a good chance your visual selection may end up ‘twinning’ with a competing brand. This can make it difficult for target customers to differentiate your brand, leading to lost opportunities and revenue. This can also impact your credibility in the business world and make it challenging for you to stand out in the crowd. 

3. Misrepresentation of Culture

Many stock photo websites use white or perfect figure models. However, this is an idealized version of reality and doesn’t accurately showcase the masses. Your target audience will also feel degraded by such pictures and avoid collaboration with your brand.

original picture by professional photographers

Original Pictures

As the name implies, original pictures are created or shot exclusively for your brand. Professional photographers or designers are often hired for this task, but you can also take the DIY route if you possess the necessary skills to create high-quality visuals. 

Pros of Using Original Photos

While stock photos can be convenient and affordable, using original or custom imagery for your website has many benefits. This includes:

1. Enhanced Authenticity

Perhaps one of the most significant advantages of using original photographs is the authenticity they bring to your website. These pictures are shot with your marketing goal in mind. They give you complete control over the models, location, and quality. This allows you to give a glimpse of your brand’s personality and, thus, are more credible in the eyes of consumers. 

2. Unique

Stock photo websites are merely storage banks of pictures that anyone can borrow for their commercial or personal project. On the other hand, original pictures are unique, with you holding the copyright of each creation. 

This means no other brand can utilize the same picture without your permission, enabling you to showcase your product or service in an exclusive manner. The pictures will help you establish a connection with the audience and ensure you stand out from the competition.

3. Freedom of Use

Stock photos often restrict the use of the same pictures on multiple platforms. For example, the rights-managed license of stock photos limits the usage of the same stock photos on different platforms and even geographical locations. If you plan to use the same picture on your website and social media channel, you will be required to buy a separate license for each to avoid legal troubles. 

However, this is not the case with the original photos. The pictures belong to you, and you have the freedom to use them in any way and as many times as you desire. 

Cons of Original Photos

A few drawbacks of using original photos for your website should also be considered to make a smart decision for your web design. This includes:

1. Time-Consuming

There are typically two ways of sourcing original photos: hire a professional photographer or do a DIY shoot. In both cases, you will have a LOT of work on your plate. While a professional will know exactly how to carry out a shoot, they will still need your input and feedback in every aspect. And if you plan to do the photoshoot yourself, you will have to plan and prepare the setup to illustrate your brand message. 

Moreover, the post-processing period can be lengthy for most photographs and disrupt the delivery time. This can be inconvenient for marketers who don’t have the time to take part in the production phase of pictures. The time frame can also be daunting if you run on a strict deadline. 

2. Costly

Compared to stock photos, professional and custom pictures can be expensive. And the cost can really add up depending on the models, number of photos, props, and the quality of equipment. For specific scenarios, you may also need to travel to other locations with your team, significantly increasing the cost. 

Yes, the investment in high-quality custom pictures will pay off after some time. However, they require an upfront payment that can be inconvenient for most brands, especially startups with low marketing budgets. 

The Verdict: Stock Photos or Original Pictures

In the end, the choice between stock photographs or original pictures comes down to several factors, such as budget, time, and brand requirements. Generally, stock photos are a better option when you have budget and time restrictions. They are also ideal when you have to illustrate concepts that you are unable to capture with your own resources. 

However, it’s also best to use original images for ideas that cannot be replicated through stock photos. For example, pictures of your products or team should ideally be professionally shot. In many cases, marketers combine their custom pictures with stock photographs to fill visual gaps in their websites. 

So consider your situation and be flexible with both options before making the final decision for your website. For assistance with website design or selecting photos, feel free to get in touch with us for a consultation.

Additional reading

If you liked this article and require further assistance with your search for free or affordable stock imagery, then you may like to read our post on the 10 best stock photography sites for free images.

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