This image looks like stock image of a man working on laptop in a bar, but it was custom photo.

This image looks like a stock photo of a man working on a laptop in a bar, but it was taken specifically for us.

One of our Facebook followers asked us to talk about Professional Photography versus Stock Photography – so we looked to one of our office space clients and long-time professional photographer Ian for the answers. When Ian heard this, he felt that we should talk about the advantages of hiring a photographer versus buying stock images from online suppliers.

First let us explain what stock images are for those who have not used them. Stock photography or stock images are a supply of professional photographs that are licensed from stock image license holders, most often for use in specific projects by graphic artists and web designers. Designers use these low-cost images as an alternative to hiring a photographer for common or “generic” types of images. The big three players in stock photography are Getty Images, Corbis and Sipa Press in terms of revenue. These companies charge an image fee, plus a royalty based on the way the image will be used and the amount of exposure it will receive.

For the purposes of this blog, we did not want to get too much into the technical aspects of the licensing of stock images, but rather to define the main types of stock images. There are three main types of stock photography.

  • Macro stock: These are often high-priced and exclusive stock photographs. They are also commonly called traditional stock photography.
  • Mid stock: These stock photographs are priced between micro stock and macro stock, hence the name Mid stock.
  • Micro stock: These are generally lower-priced and non-exclusive stock photographs that are widely used. These are often the photos found on sites such as iStock that sell royalty-free images.

Some of the disadvantage of using stock images:

1. Stock images are available to everyone, so that means they are also available to your competitors. You want to make sure the image that suits the job you require it for hasn’t also been purchased by your rivals for a similar type of job.

2. Because of their nature, stock images are usually generic, created to fit multiple functions. So even if your competitor has not used the same image, it does not mean your customers or prospective clients have not seen it used on another media to help sell another product.

3. Licensing and usage can also be a problem. Some stock photo sellers will put restrictions on how an image can be used and how much manipulation can be done to a particular stock image. There are some images that the licensee says cannot be used in a particular way for certain types of products, and other image licenses that restrict a designer from changing a colour or overlapping their product onto the image.

A final thought. If you want a photo of a generic office, stock photography may indeed be good for your project. But when you are a company that offers executive suites for lease like Telsec, you should get a professional photographer to take them for you. Why? Because a stock photograph, no matter how great looking it may be, simply cannot capture the look, interior comfort, quality and subtleties of an executive office – let alone a Telsec executive office.

To read more about stock images and their use, check this article from The American Society of Media Photographers