Using stock photos? 3 reasons to avoid using stock photos in your brand assets

9 May 2023

Using stock photos has become easier – and more tempting!

If you’re a small business owner, it’s tempting to save money by using stock photos in your advertising and promotional materials. After all, stock photos are an easy way to add in beautiful brand images without breaking the bank. They also appear to be the go-to choice for small businesses, popping up everywhere from Canva to social posting programmes. But is the popularity of stock photos too good to be true? Relying on image banks can damage your brand image and even make it harder for your audience to trust you. Here are three reasons why you should avoid using stock photos in your marketing materials:

1. Be unique to your own brand identity

Stock photography is by its very nature, generic. Mostly because it has to be done on a one size fits all level. It’s therefore not unique to your brand, and says nothing but vanilla (beautiful and shiny at best, poor quality and commercial at worst) to your readers.

moodboard scrapbook of magazine photos and flowers preparing for brand shoot
Moodboarding for your own unique photo shoot ensures you’re true to your look

2. Stock images are popular – don’t follow the crowd

Stock images are often used by multiple brands. Think about it – if you’ve downloaded this image, chances are high the same photo will pop up on a similar business page. Even if that exact photo doesn’t, as trends follow trends, something very close in style will be online somewhere else. As a brand, you need to set yourself apart. Many brand designers will advise against stock photography for this same reason – and advise you to be unified in your imagery.

This is an obvious example where two very different images could not be used by the same brand

3. Your brand image needs to be cohesive

It’s unlikely the choice of stock photos across your marketing materials will all look the same. After all, they’ve been taken by different photographers to suit generic, on trend styles. Your brand imagery should include the same colour palette, lighting, look and editorial or product styling. If it doesn’t then your lack of consistent photography style will let down your brand. In simpler terms, it can destroy your brand identity quite simply generic, incohesive imagery means your brand doesn’t actually have an identity. If someone sees two different websites with similar services, one properly branded and the other with a mish-mash of different imagery, which will they deem more trustworthy? Absolutely the business with consistent branding across all its assets.

brand shoot tropic skincare stock imagery for your own business

4. Your brand needs accuracy

The problem with stock photos is that they don’t accurately represent your services or products. Stock photos aren’t authentic or tailored to your specific needs in the same way as branding photography. Of course it’s a quick and (sometimes) cheaper fix to use stock photos but if they don’t accurately portray you offering your services, your dishes on the plates you use or the actual product you sell, then your clients don’t get to see what you’re really offering!

behind the scenes cake decorating wedding cake maker
People want to see you’re a real person in business – satisfy their curiosity!

5. Using stock photography denies your authenticity

How do potential customers know who created the content if there isn’t an actual person featured in each photo? Readers more than ever need to verify you are who you say you are as a business, and they will learn to trust you and want to know you when they see the face behind the business. You also can’t show off your brand’s culture or values in an authentic way when you use stock photography.

Use real photography instead of stock photos for your brand assets

When you use stock photos, at best you have a quick but vanilla fix, at worst you have a disconnected brand that doesn’t convey your identity.

Here’s what your brand photos should show:

  • you and your team at work
  • your brand cultures and values
  • your actual products and services
  • your brand identity (colour, style, lighting, look and feel)

A better option would be to hire a photographer who can capture real moments of your team working together or doing their jobs. This way, people will see how passionate and dedicated you are about what you do!

What’s the solution?

If you’re looking for a way to improve your brand image, using real photography is the only way to go. Your audience will appreciate seeing images that represent who you are and what you stand for, and your brand will benefit from the increased creativity and authenticity that comes from real images instead of stock photos. If you are interested in a branding / lifestyle shoot please contact me today.

Meet Frances, London Lifestyle & Portrait Photographer

meet Spirited photography

Hello! I'm Frances, founder of Spirited Branding and Portrait Photography, London. I'm here to offer you inspiring portraits using my tried and tested tools to challenge camera shyness, alongside curated branding imagery that will up-level your brand. Spirited works mostly with change-makers, ethical businesses and creatives.

I invite you look over my headshot and portrait photography or branding photography services, and would love to help you with your next branding shoot!