Over the years, stock photography has become more and more common. Not only is it relatively cheap, but (for the most part) it does the job. Let’s take a step back.
Does it really make our lives easier? Well, let’s break it down into a common workflow and analyse the result. Typically, an idea would form around a particular piece of communication. With message in hand, we go and spend time finding a suitable image (please bear in mind that time is money, so let’s take that into account too). Generally, it takes around 3 hours to find an image, get internal approval and then get client approval. Add the cost of the image and the time it took to get approval on that image and suddenly it doesn’t seem so cheap.
But it is still cheaper than a photoshoot right? The answer to that is: only marginally – what we’ve described above is the ideal, but more often than not there is a much longer process involved because internally the creative chooses an image, the senior creative isn’t happy and then it is back to the drawing board. Then of course the client looks at the options and isn’t completely happy, which causes a perpetual worm hole of revisions and unnecessary time spent on what could have been crafted along with the message from the get go.
Unless the message is so broad that it can accommodate almost any kind of image within that scope, a photoshoot is definitely more suited to showcase and enhance your message. Also consider (for example) that you’re looking to place a magazine advert as an extension to an existing campaign. The cost of the advert is quite substantial and using stock photography could cause long term damage to your brand.
Don’t get us wrong – we’re not saying stock photography shouldn’t be used at all; we’re merely saying that tailored campaign communication is too specific to make effective use of stock photography. There are areas where stock photography becomes really useful, such as blogs and social media. These mediums are very nonspecific in their very nature and often the content needs a very basic visual cue.
Much like any tool a creative uses to complete a task, stock photography is part of an ever growing toolset used to convey ideas. Remember if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem will look like a nail.