To stock or not to stock: That is the question

Stock Photography; like marmite you love it or you hate it. Personally, I’m not a fan of marmite or stock photography. Both leave a bitter taste in my mouth; whether it be a website or toast, you add stock photography to either of these, it’s gonna leave a lingering bad taste.


I really think that stock photography should be avoided as far as possible. Every time I come across a site with the same man in a business suit and a wetsuit, smiling at me the same smile and extending his ‘successful’ hand out to shake mine, I want to run a mile.


But that’s just my opinion, like all things it’s down to personal taste. Like marmite, stock photography has it’s uses. It can be of some use in certain situations and can occasionally fill the void where something tastier would’ve fitted, but just wasn’t available.


To stock or not to stock, that is the question and as ever, at Kalexiko we have answers.


Photograph the real you

This is where I found a massive flaw in the use of stock photography. I personally believe that using stock photography to represent your company is as good as lying to a girl on a first date. You are creating a facade that will sticks with your company forevermore.


By implementing custom photography, you are showing a potential client you are honest. Including real photos of you and your team in your own studio demonstrates that you have nothing to hide and you can deliver exactly as you advertise- its like looking them in the eye, but only through a computer screen.


Stock photography on the other hands screams ‘Lies!’ The smiling receptionist doesn’t demonstrate that your company is happy to take calls; similarly the ascending unmarked graph does not demonstrate that your company had a good year, they just scream cliche.


A good example of using bespoke photography would be Sales-i. In the creation of their website we performed a custom photo-shoot, showing you the real staff at work in their real office.


It really makes all the difference, it tailors an experience that’s unique to your company; therefore stating that your company is unique.


So, if you really care about forging a brand identity that truly represents you, I would say bespoke all the way (Of course, if your brand identity is something that you are not particularly proud of then stock will do just fine).


Capture your best side for your customer

Forging your brand identity also spawns a little sibling: impression on the customer. Sadly, looks mean everything and how your website looks is going to leave an impression that a customer won’t forget too easily.


The main problem that I have with stock photography is its sterile and contrived quality. Everything looks far too perfect, to the point where its so clearly staged its unreal. Whereas the perfect staff in the perfect office may well look good to those who don’t understand your industry; those who do can read your stock photography like a bad book.


You want to give an air of professionalism and expertise that cannot be achieved in stock photography and using pictures that can be found all over stock libraries and Google just won’t cut it.


Also, and I’m sure everyone will agree with me, the pristine quality of stock imagery screams everything but pristine. Stock photos seem to have a reverse effect; a medical company using two smiling doctors, having a laugh while performing an operation is far too sinister for me to put my trust into…


Hi-Res or res-t in peace?

This is where bespoke photography can pose a problem. Bespoke only really works in two ways; one, if you are a good photographer, and I mean really good; or two, if you hire a photographer to do it on your behalf. If you meet one of these requirements then, ‘bespoke’ he spoke.


If not then you may be in trouble. You cannot conduct a photoshoot worth anything if you don’t own a professional quality camera and you know your way around it well.


If not then you will end up with photos that look unprofessional and will not do your company or your clients justice.


Stock photography on the other hand offers you libraries filled to the brim of professional photographs in high-res. Yes they may be a bit corny, but they are far better than using bespoke that looks like its been taken by your uncle after a few at the family party.


It doesn’t just end with the photoshoot process. When it comes to the editing and design process I find that bespoke does have its benefits. When performing a bespoke shoot, usually you have a sort of premeditated idea of what you’re looking to produce; you know to an extent how your site is going to look, what images you want to use and where and so on. By performing a bespoke shoot, you make the editing side a lot easier as you know exactly what you want.


Stock photography on the other hand is host to some of the most dog-eared editing jobs I have ever seen. I have seen examples of cropping that would suit a website for Frankenstein’s workshop, images cloned so many times you could start a small army and images that have been layered onto a site so badly that they look like they have fell from space.


So, if you are handy with that D-SLR then I would have to say bespoke all the way. If you’re not then go for stock, but do it well. Avoid the cliches and for goodness sake make sure you buy the right sized…pixelated faces are a no-no.


Time is money

In the busy world of business, the two things that everyone wants and needs is time and money and your choice of images will affect these.


Bespoke photography can really go either way here. If you have a professional quality camera in your studio then that’s perfect, a photoshoot can happen in the studio, photos uploaded and bingo! You’re done.


But things can get messy working with clients that are situated further afield. If you’re based in Birmingham and your doing a site for a client in Glasgow, you are better off organising a local photographer or travelling up yourself; either way that’s going to cost a lot more time and money than stock photos.


But, on the other hand, browsing through thousands of stock images can also be time consuming and sometimes not worth the time when it jeopardises the end result.


So, what would I do? When possible bespoke, of course. Only resort to stock when you have to. If you are a small company with a set of promising clients than maybe you could suffice with stock temporarily, but as soon as those clients pay up and the phone starts ringing, you want to get bespoke fast!


So, in-stock or out of stock?

As it stands, I would always stick to bespoke when possible. It warrants more merit to your company, it’s individual and honest and easier to work with.


At Kalexiko, we champion using bespoke photography which as a web designer I prefer. Bespoke presents your company as it is and makes it easier to make a website look good.


Though I am also a fair believer of the saying, ‘a good worker never blames his tools’, so as a designer you have to be ready for whatever comes at you and occasionally bite the stock bullet.


Dynamics such as budget, timescale and equipment can affect what resources you have to work with, true; though as a web designer you should really be able to implement all you have available and make it look good.