Should I Use Stock Photos or Hire a Professional?

If you have ever searched online for that perfect image to display on your website, you may have run into one of the countless databases that offer copyright free stock photography for a subscription or licensing fee.  Stock photography has its ups and downs compared to using original photography on your site. Today, we’ll go through the reasons a website owner might benefit from using stock images or why they may want to go the extra mile and have professional photos taken for their business.

The Pros of Using Stock Images

For new businesses or those working on a budget, there are many situations in which it makes sense to take advantage of the benefits stock photography offers.

Relatively Low Cost

Stock photography can be a cost-effective solution to providing media for your website.  There are a ton of options online for finding a massive selection of photos which feature a variety of different subjects. Often times, these databases can be used for a small monthly fee or a one time licensing fee for specific images.  If you need a simple photo for a website cover or header, sometimes this is an easy route to take.

The Convenience Factor

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With millions of images at your finger tips, a simple search is all that is needed to find images on a countless number of topics.  With no need to outsource in order to do this, stock photos allow website owners to find new images in minutes.  Having a photographer come into your workplace or go out and capture website specific images can be more time consuming and costly.

Quality

Stock photos are nearly always very high quality images captured by professionals.  It’s just another reason they are used so often; stock images can bring your website to that next level of professionalism you have been looking for.  Being so high quality, it also means they usually can be easily manipulated, which allows users to customize the photos to their needs or liking.

THE CONS

Despite the positives involved with using stock photos on your sites, we believe they are outweighed by the negatives. Take a look at our reasoning below to understand how original images can be extremely beneficial to any business owner.

Stock Photos Are Less Appealing to Visitors

A study conducted by MarketingExperiments.com took a consulting company’s website and replaced a stock image of an attractive woman wearing a headset with a simple image of the company’s founder. It showed that visitors were 35% more likely to follow through by signing up for a free consultation when provided with the image of the company’s owner.  This result would likely be even more apparent with different industries or service providers.

Lack of a Personal Touch

Using original content immediately makes your site more appealing to visitors.  Not only do original images prove that your company exists, but they also portray past success and the overall style/vibe of your business.  Website visitors and potential clients are looking for originality and authenticity whether they do it consciously or not.  Stock photos are usually very obvious and will be recognized as such by most website visitors.

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Example of Obvious Stock Photography

For blog or social media use, authentic, original photos are an extremely invaluable asset which can lead to a much more highly engaged audience. Using stock imagery for social media is almost never an option, unless text displayed over the image is the focus of the post.

Potential Licensing Issues

Another issue that can arise when utilizing types of stock imagery is different levels of copyright.  Some photos may be available for personal or unmonetized use only, and this is not always clear when quickly downloading images from different stock photo databases.  Is a potentially hefty lawsuit worth it for an image that may not be benefitting your site anyway?  For these reasons, our website designers and digital content team at True Mtn always recommends using original imagery or video when possible.

Less Effectiveness When It Comes to SEO

Search engines are also more responsive to original content when it comes to finding your website online.  By having specific content tailored to your business, search engines are more likely to show images from your site in a media-oriented search.  For example, imagine you owned a landscaping company and had a website full of stock images of landscaping jobs that your company didn’t actually create. A potential client might search “cool outdoor landscaping” on the internet and be shown photos that are on your website, but there is almost no chance that the photos would link back to your business and lead them to your site. 

In an essence, your company would have no online media presence because it would be lost in a crowd of other people using the same images.  On the flipside, original images would lead back to your website and your website only, meaning people doing a similar search on the internet would have a greater chance of visiting it.

The Pros of Hiring a Professional Photographer

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Behind the Scenes at a Product Shoot

With the popularity of social media and the advanced camera technology that is now available to everyone for a much more affordable cost, taking your own photos, or hiring someone else to do so, has become a more realistic option for business owners. The process may involve more time than searching the internet for stock photos, however you might be surprised at the advantages original photography has to offer. Listed below are reasons every website owner should consider using their own specially curated images. We have clients that can vouch for the effectiveness original photography has on their website visitors and we at True Mtn know the benefits original images can bring. Plus, you’ll never have to worry about copyright issues with your own photos!

A Personal Touch

Having personalized media for your website is sometimes essential, especially for small businesses. When potential customers or clients visit your website, it’s important to leave an initial impact by displaying photos directly related to your business. When those images contain photos of real team members in action, the actual business location or products, or customer interactions, they are likely to have a greater effect on the visitor, versus stock imagery.

Fully Customized Portrayal of Your Business

Imagine having the perfect images for your website, ones that you have always pictured in your mind. This is completely possible when hiring a professional. You know your business the best out of anyone, and that means you know what’s important to show off on your website. With a dedicated photographer, you’ll be able to fine tune your final product to be the most impactful on website visitors.

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True Mtn Shooting for a Client

More Responsive to SEO

When a site is optimized to show up further in google searches, hence the term Search Engine Optimization, media hosted on your website can make a large impact on the overall process. This is where stock photographs can really struggle. Often times they are used thousands of times across different websites and if an internet browser does a media specific search, it’s almost a guarantee there will be no link of that image back to your site. By optimizing your original photos with the correct keywords, alt tags, and file names, specific media searches that result in your photos will always bring the user to the corresponding page on your site. This is obviously a huge advantage to bringing more traffic to your business!

Multiple Uses

True Mtn delivers all edited photos to our clients in the form of a Dropbox link. This means users can go back and download the images again as many times as they please and they will always have that stockpile of images available for use. Consider a time arises where you want to make a social media post and know you already have the perfect photo, or you want to print a brochure or ad; you’ll know what photos are available. This can even allow you to build the post or ad around the photo itself to be more relevant and effective for marketing.

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The Cons

Regardless of the many benefits original images bring to small and large businesses alike, it may not be realistic or necessary for every website. If some of these reasons below resonate with you, stock photography may be the route to go if you are looking for new media.

Time Consuming

When a professional photographer comes to your business, you will definitely want to set aside some time to share ideas, tell your story, and make sure certain employees are available to be in photos. Many business owners feel greatly inconvenienced by this, when there are countless other things to manage on a day to day basis. There can also be a considerable amount of time involved in locating and hiring a proper professional. It becomes more complicated when you begin to factor in budget, delivery time, personality, and the many other factors involved when hiring a photographer who you are depending on to show your business in the correct way. True Mtn understands this, we take matters into our own hands, truly understand your business, and do the best job we can to allow employees and owners alike to continue their day uninterrupted. We highly recommend looking for a photographer who follows these guidelines, and will work quickly and efficiently.

Higher Cost

We know hiring a professional photographer can be daunting as well as expensive. There can also be difficulties finding one that you trust to deliver a quality product. On one hand, you could go with a cheap, but possibly less experienced photographer, or bite the bullet and pay the price for a trusted, experienced professional who will most likely cost significantly more. This definitely ties into the above category, looking through portfolios and reading reviews takes time, but if you want to go the extra mile and hire a professional, it is always worth it.

Sometimes Too Hands on For Business Owners

There is absolutely nothing wrong with it, but some business owners don’t want to be photographed or subject their staff to being involved either. Other times, photographers can be demanding and it may be hard to meet their needs during a photo shoot. On top of that, it is often times stressful for business or website owners to plan, schedule, and overall prepare for a photographers arrival. Stock photos are simply easier when there is no need to talk to anyone and no need to worry about shoot day.

THE VERDICT

At True Mtn, we understand that not every business owner feels that they have the time to set aside for a massive photo or video shoot, however, you may be surprised at how little time can be spent on location to vastly improve your sites appearance.  For example, we traveled out to Valparaiso, Indiana to shoot photos for Lincoln Flats, a local restaurant.  Within an hour we had all the content we needed to provide them with a fantastic looking site, even containing a gallery page to show off all of the shots!

The Gallery on the Lincoln Flats Website
Gallery on the Lincoln Flats Website

We have found that our clients never regret the time spent on obtaining new photo and video content, especially when they see increased returns from doing so.  While its possible we could have created this site solely using stock imagery, it would have completely lacked any personal touch and would also fail to showcase Lincoln Flats’ unique dishes.

Overall, we at True Mtn greatly value the effectiveness of original images and use them whenever possible.  We believe it is worth the extra time or cost to have professional photos taken specifically for your website. With their proven track record, personal touch, and ability to help with SEO, original images are invaluable to any website owner.

Worried that all this new content could slow your website down? Take a look at our last blog to understand the techniques True Mtn Marketing uses to prevent that from happening.

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