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Custom Photography or Stock Photography?

Firstly you may not be aware of the term stock photography but you are exposed to it every day. Stock photography suppliers take millions of photos of landmarks, models, industry specific images and world images ahead of the demand. So in a nutshell it’s fast food restaurant but for photographs. You go onto the site, see what takes your fancy and then immediately buy the license to use that image in you website or design project.
Sounds great? Or is it?

Custom Photo by FunGrenade

Stock Photography

You have to think that the photographer that took the image from his own brief. He may have submitted that image months or probably years ago (you can tell from the site credits when the image was taken). The main thing is it was not taken specifically for you or your project.
And it can lead to very embarrassing situations.

Same dress at a wedding

Here are a few examples of disastrous use of stock photography. This being my ‘cringiest’ favourite. A Malaysian newspaper had this back to back advert of two different companies using the same stock photography.

from: https://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/3dxke2/stock_photo_nightmare_two_ads_facing_each_other/

Ok you may say how are they to know that was going to happen and it’s the fault of the paper for not spotting.
It doesn’t have to be the same image either, it can be from the same sequence.

But it’s not all bad.

Don’t rush into stock photography. The first nice image you see does not have to be the one you use. Set it aside, and move on. Build a portfolio of potential images, discuss with your co-workers and friends what images they like and why.

Custom Photography.

In my opinion this is the best form of photography for building an identity, recognition and reputation. For example, we are working on Tae Kwon Do club website and sales platform. This situation must use 100% custom photography. If you use stock photography of other martial artists then your credibility for being a teacher is harmed when the people on the site are not taking part in training.

Here is a good example of building an identity within the catchment of your business.


This is a mixture of stock photography and custom photography. So for using and driving the websites, i.e links and thumbnails, we use stock photography that suits that particular job. For the overall identity and developing a local brand and an association with the local area we took photography pf Pontyclun. So it’s the best of both worlds.

So in conclusion

I think each project you have to ask this question about photography. It’s easy and cheap to use stock photography, BUT, is it the right thing to do. Your website, handouts and merchandise is an extension of you and your business. Would you really want someone else’s face on it?

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