Say Cheese Without Being Cheesy

Creative, | by

Building the Case for Original Photography

Imagine going through the painstaking process of creating a strategy, defining your audience, putting a plan in place, developing a dynamite messaging matrix, building a list of tangible tactics and installing all the necessary reporting components to get your brand to market. Whew! And once you’re ready to execute (after using up your resources and budget putting all of that together) you reach for the easiest, most cost-effective tool at your disposal – stock photography.

Suddenly your one-of-a-kind campaign, targeted to your specific audience with customized messaging, doesn’t seem so unique – especially when your competitors have access to that same stock photography.

As marketers, we take great pride in creating original content – in the form of traditional media or online use – for our clients. At the end of the day, we want to make sure that our message stands out from the competition. “We produce a better widget than the guy down the street,” we say. “Our thing-a-ma-bob outlasts the competition,” we say. “Here’s a clever line that makes us look like geniuses,” we say. (As you can see, I’m a designer by trade!)

But, original content isn’t relegated to words on the page. Original photography is visual content you can truly own. It speaks for your brand in the event nobody reads the words.  

Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and a place for stock photos. For clients with small to medium budgets who produce a lot of internal or social material, stock makes sense. That being said, stock takes the individuality out of your brand.

What would happen if there were a place you could go online to download stock messaging or a stock strategy? A place where tactics are pulled off the shelf, dusted off and reused. Brands would start to blend. The world would stop making sense. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria! Ok, I stole that last one from Ghostbusters, but you get the idea.

The issue over stock photography vs. original photography has been a topic of debate way before Al Gore invented the internet. And it’ll surely continue long after I’m out of this business. Stock photos are quick, easy and cheap. New photography takes time, planning and, of course, money. But you really do get what you pay for. Just remember, you can’t be a thought leader if your perceived thoughts line up with your competitors.

A picture may be worth a thousand words. But those words start to lose their meaning when they’re not as unique as your brand.

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