Is Stock Art a Good Thing?

Animation, Info, Technology, Video Jun 08, 2015 Comments Off on Is Stock Art a Good Thing?

You spend a lot of money creating an image for your business. You spend a lot of time making sure that image stays consistent. You’d never consider purposefully cheapening that image by taking shortcuts just to save money, but it’s tempting; especially when you’re confronted with the potentially high cost of having custom art created. Clipart, stock photography, stock video and music, even complete templates for websites, commercials, animated graphics, and other media, have opened up a new world of creativity in which the marketing department can often times become the creative department. Think of the savings!

But saving money at the cost of your business image is a dangerous game; a game in which you run the risk of watering down your image by using images which can be purchased by hundreds, if not thousands, of other buyers, any one of which may be your direct competition. Take a look at any of the stock image sites which abound online; many of them will show you, right next to the stock image you’re about to purchase, how many other people have purchased that very same image. Is it worth it to take the chance that your online presence, or maybe your trade show booth, will end up using the very same stock image as your competition?

Using stock imagery wisely can certainly save you money, while at the same time, give you a stronger presence through higher production values. It can give you access to images which might be prohibitively expensive to custom produce, plus expand your creative choices when you’re on tight deadlines. So what constitutes the wise use of stock imagery?

Think about it for a moment; what do you see on hundreds of websites, all of which want you to think “wow…these guys are different! I should do business with them!”: the same glass building, with the same twenty-something, multi-ethnic business types poring over a laptop with an intent look on their faces. Over and over, the same well shot image, which does absolutely nothing to make people think there’s anything different about the business. You don’t portray a unique business image by using the same imagery everyone else is using! And template graphics run the same risk, whether they’re animations, commercials, or website templates; if you’re going to use one, at least have it customized.

Think about the visuals you use. Try using an image which is more specific to your type of business, or at least an iconic type of visual, rather than the run-of-the-mill stock business, or even worse, happy customer-service shot. This applies not only to stock photography, but stock video, and even animation templates. There’s nothing more embarrassing than picking a smiling model shot to represent your business, then seeing the same model, or worse yet, the same shot, selling widgets for another company!

I will often suggest the use of stock imagery to a client, but with a caveat: it’s smart to use video when you can save a lot of money without compromising your image. It would cost thousands to send me to shoot video of your plant in Singapore, just to say you have that plant. Why not use a stock animation of the flag of Singapore, and leave it at that? No harm done. But if you need a specific shot which shows a detail of the very process or product which differentiates you from the competition, then it’s worth the money to get that shot; no one else can claim it!

If you only have the budget to license stills for use in a television spot, then at the very least make sure that those stills have some movement to them. Sound, motion, and color are what makes television (and all video, for that matter) so effective. Better yet, try and find some stock video which shows the same subject as the stills; you’ll get your message across more effectively by holding the viewers’ attention.

Don’t think that I’m down on stock anything. It makes sense when the situation warrants it. It’s been used effectively for years. But think it over carefully, and always use custom graphical elements when the budget and time constraints allow for it.


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