Stock vs Custom Images

If there’s one thing that you don’t want to be it’s cheap and easy. In fact, you may spend a lot of time and energy convincing people that you’re the exact opposite of this. You may buy nice things and go on expensive trips and modify your morals and values. But why when it comes to your website - your brand’s virtual storefront - do you insist on being cheap and easy? Why doesn’t your website get the same love as your personal life?

Why Do People Insist on Using Stock Images?

Many branded websites are plagued with stock images these days, and we can’t figure out why. There was a time when stock images were more acceptable, but today, we know better. We know that visual content has a big impact on how people feel about brands and the types of associations they form. Visual content is the backbone of just about every type of campaign, yet we continue to see stock images taking the place of authentic, branded content that is proven to build brand credibility.

Usually, the first two excuses that come up for using stock photography are: “I don’t have a lot of budget” and/or “I was short on time.”

We get it.

Stock photos are cheap (and sometimes free) and accessible. A quick search will give you a bunch of results that can be downloaded for just a couple of dollars. This is way more enticing than having to pay a designer to create an authentic image, and then having to wait for it. It’s tempting, but so is eating an entire gallon of ice cream, and you wouldn’t want to do that.

Have You Seen Jennifer Anderson? We Thought So.

There are some pretty awful photos out there, but there are also some really great ones. Stock photography can be high in quality - we won’t argue with that. The problem is that it’s not unique to your brand. Everyone has access to the same stock photos, and many people are already using them on their materials.

Take the example of Jennifer Anderson, otherwise known as “ The Everywhere Girl.” Back in 1996, Anderson posed for a stock photo shoot. At the time, no one could tell who was using the photo and licenses were not exclusive. This meant that Anderson’s face ended up on everything, from college brochures to a teenage chat line to auto insurance companies.

While we can tell a lot more about the stock photos we use these days, the same carelessness is still happening. Take the all-too-common photos of customer care that we see online. You know, the pretty face of the person wearing the headset that says something like, “I care! Click to talk to me!” Do you really think that particular person is working for the company? Probably not. But let’s face it, you want to believe that they are. Because this is what makes a brand human.

Humanize Your Brand with Custom Images

People like to connect with other people. They want to put a name to a face, and a face to a brand. And it’s just a hunch, but we have a feeling that you have people with faces that work at your office. They may not be as picture-perfect as some of the stock photography available, but that won’t matter to your customers. Your customers will be much happier looking at real photos of real customer care representatives.

Start by replacing all those stock photos of human faces with the faces of real people in your office. You want to show that your company is real and authentic, so why would you start with a fake picture? Ideas include photographing your employees having fun at your office, enjoying a retreat or collaborating on a project.

As you start to replace stock photos with custom ones, you will notice the difference and the stock ones will stick out like sore thumbs. But you have to start somewhere, and this is the best place to do it!

Using Stock Photos with Care  

Remember when we said that not all stock photography is bad? It’s true. There are a lot of great photos out there, and sometimes, it makes sense to use them. We do advise following these tips when using stock photography.

How Popular is the Image?

You can use a tool like TinEye to do a reverse image search that allows you to see where the photo has been used. If you get a lot of results back, check to see how that image is being used and on which websites. If the sites have a lot of reach, you may want to reconsider. You want to be unique, so the last thing you need is to use a picture that everyone has seen a hundred times over.

You can also do a quick search in Google Images. Drag the photo to the search bar and see what comes up.

If you find that you keep running into popular images, be more refined in your search. If you’re looking for photos of koala bears, be more specific. You could search for koala bears eating bamboo, endangered koala bears, people helping koala bears, etc.

How Can You Make it Yours?

Once you find a photo that is relatively unique, don’t just put it onto your content and call it a day. You’ve already taken the easy route by using a stock photo, so take a few minutes to make the photo look like it belongs to you. You can crop the photo, enhance the color, use a filter, choose typography or manipulate the background to make a boring stock photo look totally cool and unique. In fact, people may not even notice that what you used was a stock photo!

Once you get comfortable manipulating stock photos, you’ll see that the possibilities are endless. You can have quality images without that awful stock feeling, and they will flow seamlessly with your custom images.

Conclusion

Custom images are the bomb. They humanize your brand and stop you from looking cheap and easy. People like to connect with other people, and slapping some generic face on your website robs you of the humanization you deserve (and your customers, too). So at the very least, start getting real photos of your employes on your site.

That said, there are some instances when stock photography can do the trick. With the help of Photoshop, you can successfully modify the photo to fit your brand. When you balance these photos with custom imagery, a beautiful, seamless website will result.

About the Author: Nicole Krosnowski

Nicole is a Designer at SEMGeeks. She is a Jersey girl who loves to “go down the shore” and spend her time at the beach. Nicole is a creative thinker, fueled by iced coffee and innovation. She loves to stay up to date with the latest trends in fashion and technology and uses this as design inspiration. With experience in web design, digital design and advertising, she approaches each project with a designer’s careful eye and a marketer’s strategic thought process.

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