Stock Photography or Photo Shoot?

Every new creative project has its challenges. What’s the theme going to be? The tone? What do we need to say and what’s the best way to say it? And among all those decisions (and a thousand more) is another one we make on nearly every project that requires visuals—do we need a photo shoot or will stock photography (licensed, pre-shot photos) suffice? Below you’ll find an overview of the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Easy & Affordable

Two of the biggest benefits to stock photography are price and availability. Stock is usually relatively affordable when compared to the larger cost of a photo shoot, which requires a professional photographer, art director, and many other expenses. Stock is also available to buy on the spot. There are dozens of stock photo companies on the web that offer high-quality images around the clock for download. There’s a lot of great stock out there to choose from. Every day it gets easier to find very artistic and stylish stock images. In fact, you’d be surprised by how many well-known brands use it in their advertising. It’s all about finding the best image for the concept at hand.

A True Reflection of Your Brand

When you hire a photographer to shoot your images under the direction of a talented art director, you produce a portfolio of images that create a total, unified concept for your brand. Everything in the images can be controlled—from color to content to composition—to ensure that you’re portraying exactly the image you want to portray. It’s a more personal approach that your audience will immediately gravitate toward. It can also unify your brand image as a whole, giving it a cohesive feel that stock imagery sometimes can’t provide. Of course, with a lot of research it’s usually possible to find a family of stock photos that will do the trick. But if there’s room in the budget, a photo shoot can really add some oomph to your brand.

Stock for the Masses

When you use stock images, others can—and most likely will—be using the same pictures as you. Most affordable stock is not user rights exclusive, which means that anyone can use it. That’s why when you’re browsing the trades you often see the same models’ faces staring back at you. If you want to ensure your competition doesn’t use the same images you’re using, a photo shoot is probably the best option. You’ll have your own unique library of images that no one else can use.

A Broader Vision

Stock photos were made to be used for all kinds of applications. That means if you want something very unique and specialized you’re probably not going to find it. For instance, a red-headed man riding a miniature clown bicycle, holding a Chihuahua in a tuxedo. That may be exactly the image you need, but you aren’t going to find it with stock. So that means you’ll have to change your concept to fit with the stock images available. However, if it’s a concept you’re dying to do, a photo shoot is probably the better option.

What Works Works

As you can see, which option is best for your project depends on a lot of factors. There’s no universal right or wrong answer. Sometimes stock does the trick. Other times, a photo shoot is an absolute must. It’s all about the budget, the deadline, and what you want your brand to say!

Take the pic at the beginning of this post, for example. It’s a great Stock vs. Shoot comparison. On the left is a stock shot. It looks great, right? Depending on your concept, it could definitely get the job done. However, the shot on the right – which is from a photo shoot – packs more punch. The colors and lighting are very artistic and eye-catching. The camaraderie between the men, which was key to the success of the finished ad, is much more evident. To see the photo in action, CLICK HERE.

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