BLOG Stock images versus commissioned

Many photographers face competition from clients who want to use stock images rather than commission bespoke shots. It’s easy to see why this option can be seen as a cheaper and quicker alternative to a commission. The downside is that this is a very impersonal approach to take.

I want to step away from this issue briefly, to think about marketing. Many photography commissions are to provide images for a client’s marketing campaign. Much of today’s marketing campaigns are directed into social media channels; Facebook, twitter, Google+ and so on. In all of these channels, best practice places a huge emphasis on expressing personality – the human side and face of organizations, because this how these marketing succeeds and drive business – they engage with potential buyers. Another key to marketing success is for businesses to differentiate their offer; marketers need to demonstrate innovation and uniqueness.

But how can we use this analogy to make a stronger case for commissioned images?

These days it is easy to evaluate the effectiveness and sales generated by marketing channels. And there is a tendency for clients to dismiss things they don’t understand or can’t measure.

Many clients will not be able to directly measure the impact of an image, so will decide that a stock image, or a poor quality image will be good enough. Reducing the cost of photography then becomes an easy way to save money.

As photographers, we have to accept it is difficult to measure the effect of images, but we can make a case to apply the broader marketing principles (personality & uniqueness to engage customers) to justify our costs.

Remember that social media and other marketing inevitably lead potential buyers to a website. If the customer sees stock photography here, there is a risk that that genuine personality that has been created in other channels will evaporate.

We have to remember that marketers make decisions based on their customers. Customers are very astute and stock photography is obvious thanks to its lack of personality and sterility. Sites that use it heavily feel fake. As customers become increasingly demanding with the growth in the choices they have when making a purchase. They need to know and trust brands before they transact with them, and fakeness isn’t going to build trust.

Marketers who settle for stock images are missing a huge opportunity to commission something unique, personal and exclusive. Something that will resonate with their customers, tells them a story about their business, and ultimately creates an environment in which they are happy to part with their hard earned cash.

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