Should You Use Stock Photos For Your Business?

professional photo of leadership team walking

Thousands of advertisements bombard the average consumer each day. This not only overwhelms consumers but also raises their awareness of authentic marketing visuals. Stock photos are super helpful for many small businesses with limited budgets. However, with the increased awareness of authentic visuals, the consumer now easily spots stock photos. Often their first impression is “that brand is trying to fool me,” or “not a chance those people work there.”

Hiring a commercial photographer that captures the actual employees, customers and solutions provides a first impression that tells the consumer, “these people are real and authentic.” By capturing real people in real business scenarios, you hope to provide a first impression that leads to brand trust and prospective clients connecting to learn more. 

How Do Stock Photos Work?

The stock photography business is truly a brilliant business model. I believe stock images reached their heyday before the rise of social media and the increase of content creators anxious to give images away for recognition. 

There are a few steps that go into creating stock image libraries.

  • First, a professional photographer hires models and pays for shooting locations.
  • Next, they photograph a diverse mixture of photogenic friends, family, coworkers and individuals in various scenarios of life, work, play and sometimes silly situations. 
  • The photographer then culls, tones, and edits the images.
  • Before uploading to stock photo websites, photographers juice images with searchable metadata that allows stock consumers to search for exactly the marketing scenario they need. 
  • The stock site then charges for the images and the photographer receives a portion.
Professionally shot image of two male employees reviewing paperwork
Example of a professionally shot business photo

The tricky part about stock photos is that, depending on the agreement, just about anyone can purchase these images for their marketing campaign. This means the smiling, gray-haired, early 50s, flannel-clad man holding a hatchet could be used in a beard balm advertisement and at the same time an ad for STD medication. 

What Are Stock Photos Used For?

Stock images can be used in a variety of ways and platforms, including:

  • Websites
  • Newsletters
  • Reports
  • Social media
  • Other marketing and advertising materials 

There is a downside to using too many stock images. Rarely can a marketer maintain a consistent look and feel when using images from so many different stock websites and photographers. 

Professionally shot photo of employee with safety glasses in an industrial workplace
Professional photo of an employee wearing safety glasses.

Can I Use Stock Photos For Advertising?

Stock images can be used for advertisements, but it’s important to pay close attention to copyrights and usage terms. If a company purchases a stock image for a year but leaves their billboard up for one year and a day, they are now opening themselves up to a copyright lawsuit. No fun.

Is It Bad To Use Stock Photos For Your Business?

As I mentioned earlier, it’s not necessarily bad to use stock images for your business. You just have to be careful. If budget allows, here are some key reasons you should look to hire a professional photographer instead of using stock images for your business.

Use Your People For Your Photos 

Build an image library of diverse business situations using your own employees, customers and locations.


The look and feel of your marketing content are always authentic 100% unique.

Reduce your risk of copyright infringement by negotiating appropriate terms before the photoshoot occurs. (The longer the usage, the higher the price you will need to pay).

Avoid Awkward Questions About Your Marketing Images 

Avoid the awkward question when a potential customer asks you about one of your images and you have to admit it really wasn’t a real person. 

Craft The Visual Story of Your Business 

Craft the story you want to tell. Take part in the art direction and create scenes with your photographer you know will best tell the story of your business.

Keep Your Authentic Visual Assets Organized

If your business maintains a well-organized and searchable DAM, your need for stock photography will drastically reduce. There are great digital asset management consultants that can help your business get started.

Professional photo of business meeting with interactive whiteboard.
Professional photo of a business meeting with an interactive whiteboard.

Replace Stock Images With Professional Photography

Finding and working with the same professional photographer creates powerful storytelling images. These images show your business in the best light. Those images also allow your prospective customers to feel like they know you before you even meet. You will even be surprised by how many of your customers will agree to be a part of your next photoshoot!

Your first step is finding a great local photographer or a photographer like myself that is willing to travel anywhere in the country to help tell your story. Connect with me anytime to start the conversation or even have me help you find the right photographer in your area. 

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