Consumers crave more involvement with brands and how they are marketed. In addition, they want you to keep it real with authentic communication. Stock photography won’t get you there.
Stock photography is like buying a Walmart photo frame that already has the picture of an attractive family or the ideal girlfriend inserted. You place this memento on your desk at work, and pass the family off as your own. Fat chance. They’re all brunettes. And guessing by how young they look, you started college at age six.
Maybe it seems innocuous that you’ve deprived your coworkers from learning something about the real you, or from recognizing your parents when they drop by the office. Not to worry, the photo will fade into the woodwork and only a handful of people will notice it.
Of all the “brand glue” a company should own, photography and other imagery should top the list. It’s the single fastest way to communicate, and its quality and consistent point of view can immediately identify your brand.
Real Photography is Too Expensive. Balderdash!
Day rates for photographers vary greatly depending on experience, the level of specialization required, and the market. Yes, you will pay at least $2,000 for an original image. But, unlike stock, it will pay off. For instance:
You can often negotiate for full rights to use the image. This means you aren’t paying again every quarter to extend usage, or to secure use for additional applications, e.g. print, web and email. This can add thousands to your budget.
The reason you use a professional photographer is to create an impactful image that you own legally and that’s unique to your brand.
Great images improve advertising recall. A great photo in an ad or website grabs the attention and engages more people than a vanilla image from stock. Even if you only earn a modest increase of 5% in recall, your original photo will more than pay for itself.
A Strategy For Using Less Stock Photography
Crazy turnaround times and tight budgets ensure that the future of stock photography is secure. But that doesn’t mean we have to like it. Here are strategies we’re exploring.
- Concept ideas that can be executed within a given photo budget. We don’t need to fly to Miami; we can have a local photographer take a brilliant shot of a shell.
- Leave time in production schedules for photography even if it’s only a day or two.
- Create fewer executions and hoard budget for photography.
- When there’s not a large enough budget for original photography, make all-copy ads, use spot illustration, or create your own artwork.
- Any good campaign has extensions into other media. Anticipate that cost and add it to the photo budget.
- Don’t try to fake out the stock houses on usage. Most use steganography (embedded codes) to track their images. You’ll get caught, and it will cost you dearly.
There’s a Time For Everything: Even Stock
There are legitimate uses of stock photography, and I admit that we’ve bought more than our share.
- The subject, e.g. Elvis, is dead.
- The cost of the shoot exceeds the return you expect on the investment, e.g. flying to the North Pole to snap a few Emperor Penguins.
- The image only there for support, like a cheese grater in an ad about high cholesterol.
- The stock photo is used in a composite of other images, e.g. sky, ocean, trees.
And the harshest pressure of all, the clock running out toward your deadline. An emergency (or business as usual) crushes a production schedule.
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