Using Stock Images to Populate Websites and Marketing Brochures

As a commercial photographer it is almost to be expected that I wouldn’t advise using stock images to populate websites and marketing brochures, this blog is however an advice on how to use stock images effectively and when to avoid them with some anecdotes from marketing material that I’ve genuinely seen. Stock images can be purchased from various on-line stock image agencies at low prices, these agencies sign up photographers who are usually assessed on the quality of their work before being accepted by the agency who then market their work at low prices. Pricing of stock images is usually on sliding scale of the images popularity (measured by the number of purchases) the more expensive it becomes, and at various resolutions with TIFF files attracting a premium over JPEG files (he more pixels the higher the selling price). Enhanced image licences may also be offered giving the purchaser additional usage rights. Standard usage licences are usually sufficient to permit the unlimited use of images in websites and marketing documents handed out free of charge.

This low cost source of images has to be attractive to anyone producing marketing documents whether to be used on-line or in print, careful consideration however has to be given to the images available on stock sites and how they can be used. There are numerous instances where they can be used effectively, this however does not make hiring a commercial photographer an unnecessary luxury. One example of effective usage of stock images has been seen on a local butchers website, images of cut pieces of raw meat and burgers on a grill taken from a stock site look identical to the products sold in the butchers shop and provide as much value to the website as would have been gained by commissioning a commercial photographer. No stock agency however is going to have exterior and interior images of the butchers shop or of his staff. The high quality stock images which made the butchery products look appealing were then placed next to a dull and poorly focused image of the shop interior and butcher, this image had the effect of putting the butchers business in a poor light. An example of the poor use of stock images has been seen on the website of a local cafe, there is a beautiful image of a stack of pancakes on the cafe’s menu page, however pancakes are not offered on the menu, the obvious risk is that a customer could visit the cafe looking forward to pancakes having seen the photograph only to be disappointed before they can even place an order.

In summary, stock photographs can be a cost effective way to populate websites and marketing brochures, however their exclusive use is generally not recommended and any businesses using them are advised to combine them with images specific to their business produced to the same quality by a commercial photographer. Any business with products that are unique to that business should have their own products photographed, this applies equally to a small local business or to a multinational. It’s quite common for manufacturers logos to be removed from stock images making them unsuitable as product shots, not only that but no stock images would be available of a new product when it is launched. Care should also be taken when selecting stock images to only include products that you do sell, a florist could for example use stock images to show off the flowers they use in their bouquets, however they should take care not to include flowers they never have in stock. The use of stock images in marketing material should be seen as a way of managing photographic expenditure not as a replacement for good commercial photography specific to a business.

Some Examples of Stock Images


Using Stock Images - Stock Image of FlowersUsing Stock Images - Stock Image of Excavator - No Manufacturers Logo

Note, the flowers image is generic, any florist could stock these when they are in season, manufacturers logo has ben removed from excavator image.

The quality of the flowers image is such that a if a dull, blurred or grainy image of the florists shop or staff were placed next to it the florists business would be shown in a poor light.

The excavator is clearly a well used machine, probably not the manufacturers latest model and is denuded of all logos making it unsuitable as a product or fleet image.

Using Stock Images - Internet Cafe InteriorUsing Stock Images - Office Interior

Two architectural interior images purchased from a stock agency website. Both images were first downloads and purchased in the lowest price band, despite the internet cafe interior being on the stock image site for over three years.

Unless you own, operate, have designed or constructed these interiors, have produced the images or wish to present either as a design idea to a client, it’s hard to see any effective use except perhaps the internet cafe image to portray the benefits of WiFi. Note the computer in the internet cafe is denuded of all logos.