As of late, the use (or misuse) of stock photography has been much talked about in the media. The Conservative Party of Canada has come under attack for what some feel as an inappropriate and/or ill-informed use of stock photography.
So, aside from the legal aspects involved in using stock photography (including: licensing agreements and assigning credit to photographers) what are some important things to consider before using stock photography?
Credit: ThinkStock / tanjavashchuk / 479767450
Stock Photography Tip #1: Consider Your Audience and the Context of the Message
As with any marketing endeavour, in order to be effective, we must consider to whom we are speaking, what we are trying to get across, and how our market will interpret it. Visual storytelling works the same way, and you have to be particularly careful when using stock photography. As in the case above, you can end up offending your audience and casting yourself in a negative light.
In order to be successful, you must be sensitive to the needs, values, and beliefs of your audience. Take time to perform the research necessary on your audience and on the content you are planning on placing in your ad before allowing it to go live.
Lastly, if you have the resources, testing it against your market in a focus group or otherwise might be a wise final check.
Stock Photography Tip #2: Be Careful to Stay on Brand
It can be a challenge to stay on brand when using stock photography, as you are limited to the vision the photographer had at the time of taking the photograph. For example, you might find a photo that captures the right kind of person with the perfect expression, but the lighting in the background of the image is foreboding, while the message you’re trying to send about your brand is a cheery one.
Finding a piece of stock photography that fits in perfectly with your brand and message can be a challenge, but it is worth getting it right to maintain the integrity of your brand.
Stock Photography Tip #3: Strive to Maintain Authenticity
There is a lot of good stock photography out there. However, sometimes even the best stock photography can come off as less than authentic and genuine. People can appear too posed, with overly polished expressions, and are often found standing beneath unnatural, fluorescent lighting. If you want your current and potential customers to trust you, you need to establish and maintain a sense of authenticity.
People (young people, in particular) have become incredibly savvy and are able to detect and then distrust and even ridicule what they feel to be phony, posed photography. There are even contemporary celebrities who make fun of the truly terrible stock photography out there.
Also consider: is it even authentic for your brand to use stock photography at all? Many brands, depending on a variety of factors such as their target demographic may eschew stock photography altogether. The Instagram Generation in particular (i.e. Millenials and Gen Z) is one for which you should exercise caution when opting to use stock photography. This generation expects to see and responds positively to natural, organic-looking photography. Further, they can often tell when stock photography is being used and might not respond the way you would hope.
BONUS: Hire a Professional Photographer
When the budget allows, it is of course ideal to use a professional photographer. You have a much greater chance of successfully communicating the message you want to get across to your audience and getting the response you want. A professional photographer will work with you to help ensure you reach your goals, ensuring every detail works together to achieve the intended results.