Authentic Images vs Stock images

Authentic Images vs Stock images. Can we use both?

Next time you are chatting with your graphic designer or website designer about the images you would like to use on your website or promotional materials, first ask yourself this simple question…

What do we want the image or photograph to SAY to our audience?

When it comes to the photography and imagery you use in printed and online promotional materials for your business, it’s not so much about having images, as it is about making sure those images to give the audience a sense of authentic meaning & true brand message.

In a world where sites like Pinterest, Esty and Instagram continue to grow in popularity, we are learning that high quality images that communicate “real” meaning to our audience are highly valued, trusted and encourage purchasing behaviour.

But everyone uses Stock Photography… so it must work. Right?

We totally understand that sometimes your budget just doesn’t allow you to hire a professional photographer. And if you are not the best behind the camera, the ‘do it yourself’ approach isn’t really an option either.

Stock photography is definitely an option for most small businesses. Sites like Shutterstock and iStock offer a huge range of searchable stock imagery at reasonable prices. However, if you are a new comer to purchasing stock photography, you could be sending your audience a message that says “we don’t care about our brand”. Here are some tips for selecting the right stock images for your business.

1. Who else is using the image?


So you’ve decided that you want your message to say “freedom” and your search for stock photos has returned the perfect image that says it all! The only problem is that you are not the only person in the world to think this.

Using simple tools like “Google image search” or reverse image search tools like “TinEye” will reveal that every other business looking for an image that says “Freedom’ has used the same image. And one of those businesses might even be your competitor!

This image for example has been used online by 17,017 sites according to TinEye reverse image search.



A Google image search revealed that this image was used on websites for a broad range of business industries including:

  • Lifestyle and fitness providers
  • Nutritionists
  • Chiropractors
  • Entertainment services
  • Weight loss practitioners
  • Holistic Healers
  • Personal coaching
  • Health products
  • Boot camps
  • Psychologists
  • Churches


If you get a similar search result to this, check if the other businesses are similar to yours and/or have a huge reach. If there are any risks, find a different stock photo. The last thing you want is to try and be unique by using a photo everyone’s already seen.

2. Make it yours!

Once you have decided on your image, think about how you can make it your own. Your graphic designer should be able to bring a creative edge to the process by adding typography or graphic elements from your visual brand and logo.

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3. Smart phones take great photos too!

Smart phones all have in-built cameras in them these days and often with great image quality capabilities. Sometimes it might be just as easy to take the photo you need yourself and either edit it or have your graphic design edit it for you. Either way, your smart phone could be a great tool.

Obviously the best possible solution is to have a professional photographer if you can afford it. They’re going to know a lot more about lighting, staging, composition and how to get the best image to convey your message in a unique way.

Summing Up!

If your budget and project timeframe will only allow for stock photography, then make sure that your image:

  • Conveys your brand message.
  • Is not over used.
  • Has been edited to be uniquely yours.

Don’t be afraid to take your own photos on either a digital camera or smart phone. With a little planning, focus on what your message will be and some basic knowledge on how lighting & composition work, you can take unique, high quality photographs that represent your brand perfectly.