When is it okay to use stock photos?

At DMA Solutions, we help fresh produce brands deliver their uniquely inspiring messages through a variety of touchpoints. One of the most powerful ways for brands to tell their stories is through visual content—if you can draw someone in with a visual, they’ll stay to hear the story! After 15 years of working in this space, we understand that photography can be a significant investment for brands, regardless of budget. Stock photos (generic photos available for purchase online) provide a budget-friendly and timely solution for brands that need visual content. So how is a marketer to know the difference between when they should save a few marketing dollars by using stock photography and when it would be smarter to invest in custom content?

When it’s okay to use stock photos

As a temporary solution to a long-term content need for your website

As a marketing agency, we frequently consult our clients on changing the way they approach marketing projects. We don’t often see a marketing project as a “start-and-finish” solution, but rather an evolving solution that can be built for years to come. For example, if a client comes to us in need of a new website, but they don’t have the photos (or budget to create photos) to populate the site, we encourage them to launch the site using stock photos as a temporary solution. Then, when the marketing budget allows, to evolve and develop the website further using custom photography. Stock photos offer turnkey, short-term solutions to long-term content needs, and they are easy to change when you’re ready for a refresh.

As a fast fix for a last-minute tradeshow booth

In the fresh produce industry, tradeshow season is the time to show off what’s new and exciting about your brand. At DMA, we often help brands portray their best selves by creating graphics and displays that elevate branding and showcase products. When we create tradeshow graphics, we need high-resolution images that will not blur when enlarged for backdrops, as well as assets that can go in a slideshow video that will play on a TV in a booth. When produce professionals are challenged by a lack of professional visual assets, we often recommend using stock imagery as a temporary fix.

When you use them to supplement original photography

(Almost) Everything is okay in moderation…and the same goes for stock photography! We recommend using original photography as often as possible in order to elevate and maintain your unique position in this industry. However, we also understand that sometimes, you just need some help getting the assets you’re missing. If you need a photo of a cyber-woman holding corn (yes, this photo exists) or a family at the grocery store but you don’t have a tangible means to create the visual yourself, it’s okay to outsource to stock photography. Look for stock photos that match your brand style so that they complement the visuals you own. From color to lighting to props, be selective about the stock photos you choose to incorporate into your visual identity.

When you should use original photography

When it comes to packaging, be original

In a commodity-centric industry, the way you package your product is one of the most easily identifiable differentiating factors for shoppers. At the store level, your packaging is what makes you unique and enables you to stand out. If you’re looking to add visuals to your packaging, whether it be a recipe, field image, or lifestyle shot, you should opt to use an original photo to further differentiate yourself from the pack. Your packaging provides an opportunity for you to tell a story, so make it uniquely yours!

Show your unique assets on social media

Social media is a powerful tool to communicate your brand voice, values and message with consumers. Did you know that when your content contains visuals, it receives 94% more views? It’s no secret that strong visual content is the key to increased engagement and reach on social media, and it’s best to share only original content on your feeds so that you can best control your visual identity. Your photos don’t always need to be perfect and polished, but taking them yourself adds authenticity that will boost your engagement and deepen your relationship with your social audience.

Stand out from a sea of ads

If you choose to advertise in a trade or consumer publication (online or in print), you’ll want to use original photography. This way, you can ensure the audience you are paying to reach won’t confuse you with another brand that has used those stock photos elsewhere. Using original photos in your advertising assets will capture your audiences’ attention and help tell the story you are trying to convey. And, if you are going to use stock images for your ads, try to customize them with a text overlay or other modification that helps differentiate them for your brand!

Whether you’re in need of a photo for your next blog post or a new header for your marketing emails, stock photos are an excellent resource for marketers. But in certain situations, when the objective is to elevate your brand as a unique and authentic experience, only original photography will do. Searching for a budget-friendly resource for visual content? Click here to see our capabilities, and contact us to learn more!

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