Professional Photography vs. Stock Photos: Why Does it Matter?

Author: Craft Media, Inc | | Categories: Commercial Photography , Food Photography , photography


Competition on the internet is fierce. You often only get one chance at your best impression, and usually only seconds to make it. A snappy, well-written line is great, but the best way to grab your audience’s attention is with imagery.

You aren’t in business because you sell a generic product or offer a forgettable service. So, where is the benefit in using generic, forgettable images to put your best foot forward on the internet?

Aside from ineffectiveness, could stock photography actually ruin your brand?

Have you ever had someone price check on their phone in front of you? This technological age has birthed a new type of consumer—one that is savvy and not wasting time or money.

The Low-Down on Stock Photos

In all fairness, not all stock photos are equal. There are some websites that provide high-quality stock photography. A key factor that makes these photos better is that they are often licensed for one-time use. Once you purchase the picture, you will be the only person on the internet to have that photo.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? But what happens once you use it on a new landing page and then want to carry that story into your socials. Now, you have to buy another similar picture, and a gap or disconnection—no matter how small—now exists within the story your brand is trying to tell.

Cheaper is Rarely Better

Forget cheaper, how about free?

There are tons of free multi-use options for stock photos on the internet. Most of these don’t even technically need to be sourced, which sounds pretty good. The downside is that you will have to wade through generic photo after brandless picture just to arrive at one mediocre candidate.

Not every business has the budget to hire a professional photographer. However, free stock photos rarely tell the story you want to tell. So, paying for higher-quality stock photos is the better option. However, here’s the “but.”

On the surface, paying for good stock photos may seem like the cheaper option. But when you factor in the number you have to buy to tell the same story as a few professional photos, the math doesn’t make much sense.

Quality trumps quantity every time in photography.

How Could a Stock Photo Ruin Your Brand?

It is possible to use stock photos if a professional photographer is not in the budget, but if it is not done carefully, it could be disastrous for your brand.

This Wasn’t on Your Website

If you have a brick-and-mortar store or an office space, your website gives potential customers or clients a chance to “meet” you and see what to expect before they commit to visiting in person. This pre-qualifying behavior is applicable more now than ever.

Maybe you can find some stock photos that capture your business setting decently, but consumers are smart, and they will spot the differences. It may be a subtle change they notice and might only be subconsciously, but these inconsistencies can lead to an erosion of the trust your online presence began building.

The benefit of professional photographers is that they can capture everything that makes your business unique. Maybe that is a state-of-the-art kitchen or a great dining room. Do you have the most luxurious board rooms or suites this side of the country? These are the things that a professional photographer will highlight that stock photos cannot.

Fake, Just Like That Ad on TV

Have you ever watched a cheesy ad on the TV and are turned off by how fake the acting was? Do you think that could result in the loss of a sale? Trust is among the top traits determining whether someone chooses to spend their money on you.

In most stock photography, you will notice the cookie-cutter poses and smiles while doing generic tasks. This is not the best way to build trust with your audience. Again, it is possible to find stock photography that captures genuine emotions and feelings, but the time and money you spend could be better spent on a professional photographer.

Professionally photography can capture you and your employees doing your day-to-day tasks. Before your customers or clients even enter your business, you begin to connect with them.

What are the odds

What are the chances of finding stock photos that capture each menu offering? If what you’re selling changes regularly, will there be stock photos to demonstrate that? The answer is no. You might get close, but it will never be exact.

The fact that you can discuss your vision with your photographer is a huge benefit. Once they know who your audience is and what story you are trying to tell, they can capture images that work with your vision to bring it to life. The pictures won’t simply add a visual element.

A professional photographer is experienced in getting the best shot. New menu item? They can show you how to make it look so good your customers will be drooling before they get to your restaurant. New designs? A professional will know the right angles and lighting to make yours stand out above all the rest.

I’ve Seen This Before

Another pitfall of stock photography is that the photo you use still exists on the internet unless you pay a decent chunk of money. Anyone else can use that exact image. This does two things.

Consider a competing business. If they use the same image or images on their website, nothing separates your brand from theirs except the written content. But if the consumer never makes it to the written content because the same images bored them, it doesn’t matter how great the website or blog is.

The other possible outcome of the same image being used could be genuine confusion. If an unrelated business uses the same photo as yours, and then the consumer visits your website. They may be confused as to what you are selling or offering. This could lead to a high bounce rate from your website and lower your SEO.

Photos for Conversion

According to the analysis of 5000 different ad campaigns, Vero discovered that the click-through rates for images were 42% higher. It wasn’t specified in the study, but a high percentage of these click-throughs were likely ads with unique pictures instead of generic stock photos.

This demonstrates the importance of high-quality photography for your website and blog and your email campaigns, Facebook advertising, or landing pages.

Bottom line: professional photography helps convert potential customers into paying customers.

In some industries, the competition is fierce. For example, the food and beverage industry can be cutthroat. There are only so many ways you can describe different meals. So having high-quality photos that show your unique offerings may be the thing that tips the scales and gets your restaurant chosen over the next one.

Restaurants are not alone in their competition. Are you doing everything you can to stay one step ahead of your competition?

Closing Thoughts

All things considered, a stock photo is better than no photo—especially if you are paying for good stock photos. If you are just starting out or do not have a large budget for your content development, stock photos can get you by. But don’t fall into the trap of skimping on visual elements to your online presence that so many businesses get stuck in.

If possible, invest in yourself. Invest in your brand. Because even with a strong case against them, stock photos remain the choice of many businesses today. Hiring a professional photographer might be the edge that gains you a new customer or client.

At Craft Media, Inc we are passionate about pictures and video, and we do it all. When you hire us, you’re hiring us. Whether you need images for your website or your socials, we will work alongside you to make sure your vision is realized. Give us a call or email us today.