Stock Photography vs. Custom Professional Photography: What difference does it make?

corporate photography

Studies have shown that, on average, people will be able to recall 65% of visual content they see after three days, as opposed to only 10% of written content. This should come as no surprise if we think about how people tend to consume media. We generally want to be engaged and entertained conveniently. Most people would find viewing images to be much more enjoyable than reading written text. This is not to say that written text is not essential in running a business; it definitely is, but what we are most concerned about is leveraging our most valuable assets to give our business the most ROI. 

Now that we have the importance of visual imagery established, we've arrived at a crossroads. Should you use custom professional photography or stick to stock imagery for your company's website, marketing assets, social media, and other forms of online outreach? Depending on who you ask, you may get mixed responses. We feel that the decision is easier to make than may be initially evident. Thus, today we will walk through some crucial considerations that you should acknowledge when making the critical decision of stock photography versus professional photography. By the time you leave today, we anticipate that you will have the clarity and insight to make the most beneficial decision for your business.


Let's start with an analogy. Think about the people that you trust the most. It could be a spouse, close family member, or a best friend. There are probably various reasons for which you place your trust in them, but a universal characteristic people look for in a confidant is authenticity. Does this person like you for who you are? Are they transparent? Are they genuine and sincere? All of these characteristics are shared between close relationships and the brands/companies that people trust. According to various studies, as much as 94% of customers relate most to brands that emphasize transparency. Consumers want to know exactly who they are doing business with. They need to be able to put trust in not only a company's product or service, but also in the company's mission. There are few better ways to do this than with professional imagery. Show your consumers the people behind your brand and allow your business to create a deeper connection with the customer. 

If you tried to do this through stock imagery, you might find yourself scrambling to find images that can do this. The chances are that you will find very few images that effectively connect with your audience. So if one of your goals is to build trust with your consumers effectively, then custom imagery appears to be the obvious choice.

business headshots

Brand Differentiation/Personalization

More often than not, what newer and smaller companies struggle with is brand differentiation. Whether you have created an entirely new product or service or have innovated upon an existing one, your solution(your product/service) must be significantly better at solving a consumer pan point than what already exists. If you cannot properly display that what you bring to the table is light years better than the old method, generally, people won't switch over to your solution. I don't know about you, but I definitely wouldn't leave the success of my business entirely up to luck. So, regardless of whether you have a product or a service, professional imagery can help deliver the unique message that your company is trying to portray and allow you to stand out from the crowd, especially in an over-saturated market. Working with a professional will allow for the complete customization that stock imagery doesn't allow. 

Take a look to the right for a comedic example of the overuse of a stock image. 

business photography
business headshots

Brand uniformity

You may notice a common theme throughout this blog of the establishment of your brand. Your brand embodies many different things, but in summary, a brand is a public representation of who a company is, what they stand for, what emotions the company elicits in its consumers, and more broadly, what problem the company is trying to solve. When you think of the biggest and most successful companies in the world like Nike or Pepsi, there are most likely some associations that you connect them with, such as "athlete endorsed sportswear" or "refreshing/cold soda." These associations that you make were no mistake. Brands spent years conditioning their consumers to have certain positive emotions about their brand through various marketing strategies. (If you want to learn more about this, check out a recent blog called "The Importance of Brand Story & How to Effectively Tell it in 2021) For now, the most crucial takeaway with brand uniformity is knowing that it takes between 5-7 interactions with a brand for people to start remembering it. So, when choosing content for your brand, make sure you stay consistent across all platforms. Quite frankly, stock imagery is just not going to cut it in this facet of the business. Instead, working with a professional photographer allows you to keep the style and general feel of your images the same, which will ultimately help your consumer base make positive associations with your brand, as we talked about earlier.

corporate photography

Return on investment

By this point, we hope you have a good understanding of the limitations of stock imagery and the benefits of working with a professional. One concern that smaller businesses or start-ups have with working with a professional is budget allocations. While it is true that getting custom imagery done has a higher up-front cost in comparison to stock imagery, we feel the long-term investment pays dividends. Before we finish, we are going to leave you with a few of those examples.

  1. Website Assets
    1. Every company needs a website in this digital age. If you don't have one by now, the chances of you having success noes-dive significantly.
    2. Your website should include high-quality images of your product/service, headshots of your team, interior/exterior images of your location, and even candids/behind-the-scenes images of your team or product in action.
  2. Marketing Assets
    1. It's great if you have a revolutionary product or service, but it most likely won't take off if you don't properly spread the word about your solution.
    2. Your professionally done images can be used across social media platforms, email lists, print ads, billboards, and other marketing campaigns. The versatility is key to getting the most out of your investment.
  3. Increase Revenue
    1. 61% of consumers are far more likely to do business with a brand with original and engaging content.
    2. Don't lose sales because your consumers aren't interested enough to scroll through your website, social media, or even get into your brick-and-mortar store. Let the images speak for themselves. 
    3. Still interested in how you can increase revenue? Check this informative blog out.

Where to go now?

So you're interested in taking your business to the next level but are unsure where to go now? 

Check out Capturely! We are a mobile on-demand photography service that produces professional imagery designed to help our clients get noticed. We believe visibility leads to opportunity, and we provide an enjoyable professional image experience that brings you into focus to set your goals into motion.

corporate photography

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