Posted on 26 October 2011.
One of the biggest questions we get from our clients when we are creating a new campaign for them is “Why should I buy a $250-$550 photo when I can get one for $30-$100 that is just as good?” Ever since the invention of stock photography sites, clients just can’t understand why some photos are just so darn expensive!
Since the recession hit, we designers have spent countless hours searching through cheap stock photography sites for clients. Sometimes sites like this are good because they offer us photography at a price that is affordable. This is great when you have a really small budget, but what if you don’t? Should you give in and buy the more expensive photos? The answer is yes. Here are my 4 reasons why…from a designer’s point of view.
Reason 1 – Cheap Stock Photography Can Cheapen Your Brand
If you’ve ever heard the phrase “You get what you pay for,” you heard right. There is no such thing as a good cheap photo – there’s a reason it’s cheap. Most of the photos found on these inexpensive photography sites have a cheesy, unprofessional look to them. If you’re building a web site for a hospital or bank, you probably don’t want that cheesy photo to be the first thing people see. Clients connect what they see visually with how they think of your brand. That’s why advertising is an effective and important part of your business. If you are trying to build a serious and reputable brand, you probably want a photo that shows that as well.
Photos on a cheaper stock photography site are usually submitted by amateur photographers who are just trying to make some side money. These photographers do not have the training or experience that a professional who is submitting their work to a more reputable site does. That means the quality of their work and their eye for creative and interesting shots is most likely not where it needs to be to make your brand really stand out from the crowd.
Reason 2 – The Cheaper The Photo, The More Likely Someone Else Will Use It
Back in the day, there was no such thing as stock photo sites. That meant that whenever a business needed to do a brochure and they wanted photos, they had to hire a photographer to take these images for them. The advantage of this type of photography was that no one else in the world would be using those photos for advertising, except you.
Well, times have changed. Now, anyone can get a stock photo downloaded from the internet in ten minutes or less. If you are a big hospital, do you want your advertising campaign to be built around images off a cheaper stock photography site that anyone can afford? Your campaign that you spent all that money on will not look so original if the guy down the street is using the same image for his small business.
Reason 3 – The Cheaper The Photo, The Less Specific They Will Be
Sometimes, when we’re building a campaign for a client, they want to see certain types of photos/demographics. Usually, this is not a problem to find when you are searching for photos on a more reputable stock photography site. These sites specialize in stock photography. That means that they use actual data and figure out what items are searched for most frequently and therefore do more photo shoots of these things.
Not only do they monitor what people are searching, they also know the rules and regulations of advertising. They know that in printed pieces and online you need a certain number of each type of demographic, therefore they offer this type of photography.
On the contrary, a cheaper site won’t offer as many images that fit your needs because most of their images are added at random by amateur photographers. This means that they are most likely not photos that have been taken as part of a shoot and also that they do not offer a wide range of demographics – therefore making it harder to find what you’re looking for.
Reason 4 – Series Photos Are Important
Generally, photos that are part of a series are the best photos to use for a campaign. Why? Well, they are all the same. They are a bunch of photos that all have a similar theme and were taken at the same time. Because of this, they will have the same kind of lighting, colors, and types of people.
This might not sound important, but it is.
On a cheaper site, you might be able to find one image here and another there that are of people who are 55 and older and gardening, but they will most likely be different gardens, different kinds of daylight, different people, etc. And what if you really like the style of that one image because you feel it fits your brand the best, but you can’t find any other images that look like it? Sadly, you’re pretty much out of luck. Contrary to some people’s beliefs, Photoshop can only do so much. You can’t always make images look the same, no matter how hard you might try.
Professional stock photography sites, on the other hand, offer series photos which come from a specific photo shoot. That means all of the images in the series were taken during the same shoot and have the same kind of lighting, people, etc. If you like one image from the series and feel that it fits the look and feel you are going for, then it is easy to find images that match and are of similar quality.
Instead of thinking of the internet as a way to cut back on quality and get things for cheap, we should be grateful that we are offered such an easy solution for great photography. You can get the quality of the images you would have received back in the day right at your desktop, without having a photo shoot. Back in the day, people had to pay upwards of $3,500 for a photo shoot every time they needed new photos for a brochure – and that didn’t include the cost of renting a helicopter, make-up artist, talent, and whatever else you needed. Now, you can even buy images according to the size you need! And that, my friends, is amazing.
I hope it’s more evident now why paying more for photography is a little extra dough. The recession has been hard for everyone, but we’ve all become so caught up in a penny pinching mentality that we have sacrificed quality in the process. As the economy takes a turn and things become better again, I hope we will not see ourselves clinging to bad habits just because we know we can save money. It’s important to go back to your roots and pay more attention to what that photo is saying about your brand instead of focusing on the cash.