Stock photos can be great and at the same time not so great. And as a photographer, I’m not against them or for them, what I am for is knowing when to use them.
There are a lot of positives to using stock photos in a world of constant images. Social media is so visual that to keep consistently marketing the amount you need makes stock photos worth it. But it isn’t only social media, it’s the content you create like a blog post or podcast. All of this needs visuals, not to mention any other content, website, videos, etc.
That’s one big positive of stock photos and videos, there is a lot out there and it can fill in all the spots you need visual content for your project or venture.
The other aspect is time. In order to create your own content (photos, videos, etc.) takes time. And to make it look great, that takes more time. So stock photos can also save you time.
And you probably already guessed the big negatives, it costs money (often as a subscription fee) and it may not save as much time if you’re spending time trying to find images that fit your brand or are consistent for one project or product launch.
The biggest advantage of creating your own visuals (or hiring someone to do it) is it will be unique and stand out. It can then also fit your brand and connect the dots a lot quicker for your target audience.
People remember images more than words and images are what essentially connect your audience to your brand (or you). They begin to get to know who you are through the consistency of your images and the consistency of your content.
The biggest drawback is having the number of images you need for your project or venture. And that’s where timing comes in.
In the beginning, it’s important to start with a consistent look and feel while you consistently make content for your audience. It doesn’t have be perfect however, making it you and unique will help it stand out as you develop a relationship with your target audience.
The cost time advantage can be calculated by looking at a year subscription (420 euros) to a stock image provider like Social Squares or Social Curator. This doesn’t seem like a lot when you look at the number of images avaialble to you.
But the cost comes at developing your brand in the market. You can hire someone to get you branded visuals (for about the same price) that you can leverage for the first two years of your business (while establishing your brand).
And then supplement extra images you need with free services like Unsplash. Because you know the look and feel of your brand already, using free services or even a one month subscription rate at a stock image provider can supplement other images you may need in the first two years.
When I recommend using a stock image provider and subscribing is once your brand is established and your budget can handle the subscription costs. For most, this is around 3 years into starting a new venture.
There is no right or wrong to using stock photos, there’s only the right time to make it work for you and your personal brand.