Okay, so the title of this article might come across as rather strong but, as a visual communicator, I feel strongly about the repercussions of the design industry having such a reliance on stock photography.
There are instances when hiring a photographer is not practical and I am not seriously calling for the abolishment of the stock photography industry. I am, however, encouraging a shift in thought. What is the value of using a photographer instead of stock photography?
Wherever possible I strongly advocate the use of a photographer when creating visual content, and here’s why:
1. Reinforcing brand.
The thought of hiring a photographer often makes even the most adventurous of clients shudder. However, the value in having the ability to art direct a shoot is incomparable to using stock. Every image is an opportunity to degrade or reinforce a visual identity and introducing a professional photographer will help to produce work that not only reinforces your brand’s visual identity, but is able to reflect all attributes of the brand itself. Not only this, the cost of multiple stock photographs adds up; it is surprising just how quickly a photoshoot pays for itself. There’s incomparable value in reinforcing your brand visually, whilst cutting down on time spent trawling the web for a suitable photo for each piece of artwork.
2. Competitive advantage.
Having creative control over the artistic direction of your photography is fundamental to producing images of a high standard. Owning unique photographs not only adds authenticity and integrity to your company’s visual communication, but is also practical. Being behind the lens allows for the capture of specific and possibly uncommon shots that add another point of differentiation to your competitors. It can be particularly embarrassing when the same stock photography model appears on competitor websites; it is an unfortunate circumstance that happens all too often.
From annual reports to websites and social media, photography has an ever-growing number of platforms upon which it can degrade or reinforce a visual identity. Although these opportunities should be embraced, they are not without their challenges – namely the plethora of crop sizes that now need to be considered. A huge benefit of using a photographer is the capacity to be prepared for this. For example, if it is known that an image will be used in a situation with text over it, then adjustments to the composition can be made accordingly. Photos can be shot with consideration of negative space and then formatted for infinite editing possibilities; one photo shoot can provide a collection of photos with boundless potential for use.