Electrical transmission tower images for business

Stock Photos: Why, when, where and what to do

Stock photos are now a ubiquitous source of images that are used on-line, in social media and all types of advertising and marketing communications. 

There’s more than meets the eye, literally, when it comes to choosing what to use. And indeed, if stock really is the right answer for your business needs.


An abandoned Australian Government Aircraft, near Yielima, northern VIC.


In an earlier Images for Business news article – Why you should build a business image library – we discussed the importance of using great images that truly represent your brand story. Part of the solution today for many companies will include the use of stock photos.

Stock photos have become so popular because they are a quick, easy and low-cost means of obtaining photos. Over time, the quality and range have improved. Likewise, the performance of the search engines that deliver the content is better.

However, there are four main issues to  be aware of with stock images:

  1. Repeated use of single images by many companies
  2. Risk to reputation
  3. Image quality
  4. Image choice

The problem with common stock libraries is their popularity. Most of the best images get used by many businesses. Because images are such a big part of human memory, having an image attached to multiple brands adds confusion. If it occurs across two competing companies, the impact is significant.

The second potential problem with stock can be damage to reputation. You see, you can’t control how others are using an image that you don’t own. For example, you decide to use a portrait as the face of your brand or service. Then another brand, possibly one that is not of good reputation or that operates in a category with which you would not like to be associated. Let’s leave to your imagination. It’s a risk.

The third problem is image quality. Not in a technical sense, but authenticity. We all heard the term ‘stocky’ when referencing a photo and we know what it means – contrived, artificial and inauthentic.

The fourth issue is image selection being placed in the hands of people not trained in that skill. Choosing pictures that represent, rather than directly illustrate a brand’s subject matter is hard to do. 

The best solution, of course, is to commission original photos that directly illustrate your brand, products, services and people. But when that’s not an option, there is a better way.


Railway tracks stripe the landscape near Yass, NSW


There are other, smaller image libraries and imaging businesses, like Images for Business, that make images available to licence for use as stock. This can either be via a limited licence, a perpetual licence or exclusive licence. There are many advantages to this approach that can answer all of the main problems with using popular stock services.

  1. The use of the image is less frequent or can be made exclusive to your business
  2. The image is often chosen or recommended by a professional, responding to your brief. 

So next time you need a stock photo, take a broader look or contact us.