Making a decision to use stock photography or real images isn’t nearly as easy as one may assume. This is because there is no clear-cut right or wrong answer. Ultimately, it boils down to what a person may be looking for and what they are trying to achieve with the image. Variables exist when trying to make your decision, as there are many considerations to keep in mind.
Below, we will attempt to break down some of the pros and cons of each to help you make whichever choice is right for you. Some prefer their ultimate final product has the genuine feel only a real picture can provide while some prefer the ease and simplicity of stock imagery. It all boils down to which more closely aligns to your vision.
We’ll start by breaking down the difference between the two. Real images are pictures taken by you or a professional photographer for whatever use your heart desires. Stock photography is typically a storage bank of pre–existing pictures that you can choose from. Some of these storage banks are free to use, such as Google Images, but be careful! Things are not always as they appear as we’ll discuss below. For the savvy user, however, stock photography can lend itself to some pretty sizable upsides.
The first thing to consider when choosing between stock photography and real images is price. As mentioned earlier, there are many stock photograph banks that will allow you to choose from an assortment of images for free or very little cost, both of which tend to be very budget friendly.
Additionally, those working within time constraints might find hiring a professional photographer too time-consuming or expensive. Stock photo banks tend to offer a sweeping selection of images, with a search feature making it quick and easy to find a suitable offering with just the click of a button.
The most glaring con on of stock photos is lack of originality. Stock photo banks can be a great option for many people which is exactly what it sounds like–an option for everybody. Purchasing a license to use the image doesn’t prevent the next person who happens upon it from doing the exact same thing. Since most printing outlets allow customers access to the business stock photo image bank at no additional charge, the odds of running across a previously used picture are higher than one might expect.
Moreover, many stock photo banks rely on cliched, cartoonish characters or pictures that don’t lend themselves to a product or service meant to be taken seriously. Lastly, and possibly most importantly, using free stock photo banks such as Google Docs can come with a hidden charge if you’re not careful. Since many of these pull from images available online, the image may not be free of charge to use even if the platform is. This can lead to licensing violations, which can cost from hundreds to thousands of dollars if you’re not careful.
Real Images are quickly becoming the preferred choice for users, as the pros heavily outweigh the cons. Moreover, people typically find the ability to have complete control over the image, its quality, and how it’s used far too enticing. Since real images are photographs taken by you or a paid professional, you are in complete control over what happens next. The creativity that comes from being the one to decide the exact image as opposed to settling for something close can be a small but important distinction when it comes to branding.
It goes without saying that the biggest pro to using real images is originality and flexibility. Whatever vision you may have in mind can be created, with the option of taking multiple shots from multiple angles until you get the result that best suits your needs. This also gives you control over the quality of the image and the ability to format it for its intended use without incurring additional design fees, as many printers will not format images for free. Avoiding licensing fees, while not the biggest pro on this list, can save you time and headache by not having to worry about whether or not the image is being used correctly or as intended.
When it comes to a list of cons for using real images, there really aren’t any outside of potential cost. Hiring and scheduling a professional photographer can be expensive, depending on what you’re asking for. Investing in photography equipment or design software can also be costly but not something you would likely do unless you were to pursue such a vocation on a regular basis anyway. With cell phone cameras getting better with each generation and photoshop applications aplenty, the cost doesn’t at all need to be a deterrent.
As mentioned above, ultimately, it depends on your vision and which is better going to achieve what it is you want to do. Both offer their advantages and disadvantages, but at the end of the day, it’s about which is going to represent you and your brand the best.