Saturday, November 08, 2008

Why use a professional photographer instead of stock images

Waiting for something to happen. People on a bench in Ostend, Belgium.

Why should you use a professional photographer instead of downloading an image from a stock library? Well there are many good reasons and I hope that photographers reading my blog find something useful here when pitching for new work and marketing themselves.

I've got nothing against stock libraries as such and in fact I contribute to a few. These days though the returns are diminishing and articles keep appearing challenging the viability of making a living as a traditional stock photographer. Enthusiasts and amateurs have swamped the stock library market with images and unfortunately designers and agencies, with pressure increasing on their budgets, all too quickly turn to stock libraries for their picture needs.

So it is becoming more important than ever for good professional photographers to differentiate themselves from the offerings of stock libraries.

Here goes...

When a company hires a pro photographer they get far more than an image file. They get the benefit of the photographer's experience, creativity, knowledge and insight. Essentially a company is not just paying for an image they are paying for that particular photographer's skill and ability.

With the current economic situation business is more competitive than ever before and a lot of companies are selling similar things. How can they make themselves stand out? The only way is to push their brand, to have something unique and instantly recognisable in the market place. So a style of imagery which is in line with the company's brand needs to be developed and kept consistent.

A company cannot differentiate itself by downloading a hotch potch of images from a stock library and trying to shoe horn them into their corporate brand. These images may well be gracing the adverts and brochures of their competitors too. The only way to get a truly unique image is to commission it or pay a stock library for exclusive rights, which would probably turn out more expensive than hiring a photographer in the first place.

A good professional photographer will take a brief and analyze the requirement in the context of what the client wants to achieve. The photographer will develop an understanding of the brand and how the company wants to portray itself, what makes it unique.

When it comes to the actual day of the photo shoot the ability to make last minute changes and explore spur of the moment creative opportunities can be invaluable. The client will also have excellent control over the quality of the final image. The client's creative team working together with the photographer means more brain power, skill and experience are brought to bare on solving the core issue of how to sell the product and market the company effectively through visual media.

Littering a company's website, brochure and sales leaflets with 1$ stock library images can cost that company a lot more than using a professional photographer because of the damage it can do to the brand, corporate identity and the image of the company. And when you think of the costs of designing, printing and delivering a marketing campaign then the cost of hiring a photographer is fairly small in the overall budget.

Hiring a good professional photographer is the only solution for a company that wants exclusive photographic imagery that sets it apart from competitors.

Unfortunately individual photographers are up against huge corporate stock library marketing machines when it comes to persuading agencies, designers and companies to make the right choice. But if we speak with one voice and consistently push the benefits forward of using a professional photographer we can hopefully start to redress the balance.

Comments and feedback welcome.

Paul Indigo