Stock and Bespoke Photos – Which is right for businesses?

What is Stock Photography


Stock photography is defined as:-

The supply of photographs which are often licensed for specific uses

This usually means buy permission to use an image for a specific “use” and “period” of time. So it may be for an advert in the local newspaper for 1 month – or on a website blog for 3 years.

In this article, I want to discuss:-

  • why we use photography,
  • the benefits of stock photography,
  • the negative side of stock photography and
  • why creating bespoke photography will benefit your business


Why we use photography

For businesses, the main use of photography is:-

  • to instantly create a great first impression of your business or products
  • to support copy in advert or illustrate a piece of editorial,
  • to create a visually appealing advert or website,
  • to throw some logs on the fire of social media
  • to break up text and give the eyes a rest on a page!

I have often used a fishing analogy to illustrate the effect great photography has on your marketing.

If marketing is “fishing”, then Photography is like the “fly”,

  • The fly is almost always the first thing the fish will see
  • Once seen – the fly works (or fails) in milliseconds – its job is done.
    • if it is a bright and attractive fly, the fish goes for it!
    • if it is a dull and boring fly, the fish moves on
  • once the fly has grabbed attention, you start to get “bites”
  • each bite equates to something like…
    • a click on a link,
    • a filled in form,
    • a visit to your website,
    • a watch of video or
    • a read of your compelling copy.

It is the photo that gets the wheels in motion. Without that great first impression, some will not click or read more, and they may have been ready to buy… right now!

The benefits of stock photography

Stock photo libraries are big business and there is a lot of money to be made, so it is definitely something that works.

A huge choice of photos

As a business, you’ll need images to support your content, and a search on the big stock sites will allow you to find almost anything.

Quality Control

The better stock sites have rigorous quality standards photographers have to adhere to, so you know you are going to get something you can use.

Cool membership features

Stock websites also have lots of different account types where you can subscribe and get benefits, so if you are a regular user it can help with the investment.

The negative side of stock photography

Hours wasted searching

The first thing you will notice when looking for an image, is that time disappears paging through thousands of similar images. You can spend hours looking for that perfect Image for the campaign and still not get there.

Prices vary hugely…

…dictated both by the subject matter and your usage.

For example, if you want a front page image for your website, it can cost you hundreds of pounds for a couple of years licence,  whereas if it was a supporting image on a blog page it would cost far less.

Someone you know may use the same photos

Stock photos are, by definition, available to anybody who wants to pay for them. You don’t get exclusivity. This means that your lovely front-page photo may be on your competitors front page as well!  I’m sure that rarely happens, but you will find the best stock photos get used an awful lot, and they will be the ones you probably choose, as they stand out from the crowd.

Generic images

Stock photos say absolutely nothing about your business:-

  • they are photos created by someone who doesn’t know you or what your values are.
  • They exist to be generic and useful to as wide an audience as possible.
  • They will be very good quality but they stand out as stock, it has a feel and look to it which is almost too polished and unreal

That’s why finding the right one is a long, tedious search process.

Why creating bespoke photography will benefit your business

It’s all about YOU!

The main reason to create bespoke photos is to capture :-

  • your business,
  • your team,
  • your location,
  • your coffee cups,
  • your stationery,
  • your products,
  • your vans,
  • your clients,
  • your values,
  • your….. everything.

Rather than using photos of American models and the Dubai Skyline, which say nothing about your business, no matter how amazing they may look.

Bespoke photos say everything about your business.  They introduce members of your team, show people where you work and what your environment is like. Every pixel is being used to tell your story.

Plan for what will be useful…

If you plan your photo shoot well beforehand, by having a brain storm with your marketing and social media team, you will find out which images they would love to have available. You can save hours of trawling through stock websites…. because you’ve created exactly what you need already

Use them anywhere you like

Usage rights of photos will vary from photographer to photographer, so be sure to ask. Most bespoke photoshoots come with either a price per photograph or billed at an hourly rate. You can then use the photos where you like on your website without the price skyrocketing. It will vary as I say – but many will just grant a simple licence allowing you flexibility.

Photos won’t appear anywhere else

Exclusivity is usually built into most photo shoots –  so you can rest assured that the photos on your website will only be used by you. It will spare the blushes of other people using exactly the same shots.

It’s worth noting that copyright will always remain with the photographer. Don’t be put off by this – your photos are very “specific”, it’s very unlikely that they’ll want to sell a photo of your receptionist on the phone on a stock library, but you can also ask about licensing to make sure they’re not going to use any of your shots commercially.

A more cost effective solution

Bespoke Photography may seem expensive from the headline figure,  but if you were to work out the cost per photograph, you may be surprised.

It is often more cost-effective to go bespoke, than to license from stock libraries. Obviously this all depends on how a photographer works and the stock library you choose to use.

Good fun

Most people prefer root canal treatment rather than being photographed.

In reality, most bespoke photoshoots don’t involve you posing against a background or many awkward passport style mug shots. They tend to be scenario based, where you and a few colleagues pretend to do business activities whilst being photographed – in a candid way.

It can be great fun to do, lots of ideas and expressions flow and if your team are laughing and smiling, the photos look amazing – approachable, happy people who are great to business with – and they’re the actual ones you talk to on the phone, not a model from Los Angeles in a studio, which you get on many “contact us” pages.

In Conclusion

So in conclusion, Stock Photography does give you access to a world of great looking images, but they are by definition generic and have nothing to do with your business.

Going “bespoke” with a professional photographer who offers “stock library” type sessions gives you a rich library of images which are 100% about your business – and when you do the sums, it can work out very cost effective.

Here is a pdf which explains the various types of photos plus how and when you should use them:

McFade – 10 Essential Photos For Your Business

If you have an accountant, they should be your first stop for business advice. If you don’t have an accountant or they can’t help, BuBul has a wide range of experts available. For more advice, why not contact our expert* Adrian on LinkedIn?

*We’ve picked experts we know and trust who are good at what they do. All of them will give you at least an extra 30 minutes free advice if you contact them and would then charge their normal prices. They don’t pay to be on BuBul and don’t give us any money from anything they earn as an expert.