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Picture this. You are writing a blog or creating a new page on your website. You know roughly what kind of picture you want to use but you are on a deadline to get the blog or website up in a limited time frame. You don’t have the time to track down or set up your own photography setup to get your image taken custom so you look up a few stock images on Canva, or unsplash.com. Ok, maybe it’s not the exact image you were looking for but it works right! Wrong. Stock Images Suck. Here’s why.
Why Stock Images are Bad for Blogs
One of the most common uses of Stock Images is blogs. A blog without images has lower engagement rates and every SEO guide to writing blog posts will tell you to split up blocks of text with images. So many first-time bloggers will go the path of least resistance and download a few stock images or free stock images and use it to split up their blog post text.
But they’re missing the point…
Images aren’t just good for blogs because people’s attention spans suck… though that’s a little bit a part of it… Images are good for blogs because they are supposed to act as a compliment to the content you are writing. They ought to add value to the text, not just split it up!
To be completely fair, many website builders like WordPress, Shopify, Wix, Squarespace, etc. will actually include stock images on their site builder for free. Why? Because they want you to start paying right away and they know taking good images takes a lot of time. But there are a lot of reasons that Stock Images actually suck in general, not just for blogs.
Stock Photos Always Lack of Originality
Stock images are available to anyone who is willing to pay for them, which means that thousands of other websites may be using the same image as you. If I see an image on your website I’ve already seen elsewhere, I am going to assume you stole it or that you really don’t care about your blog enough to just get some of your own images.
Local Insurance Businesses, Crypto, and Tech companies are infamous for making these mistakes. They don’t want to put pictures of their company on their website for privacy purposes and instead just decide to use generic “Insurance, Business, Crypto” stock images all over their site and hope you won’t notice. But obviously, you do! How often have you seen an image like this on a cryptocurrency website?
Probably a million times. Don’t believe me? Here’s the proof. Do a quick Google search of either “Insurance near me” or “new crypto projects” and don’t click on the biggest one you find. Chances are, the local insurance website doesn’t have a single image that actually shows their business and the cryptocurrency company just uses a ton of stock cryptocurrency graphics they found on the internet.
Still don’t believe me? I bet you have seen Rebecca Givins at some point in your time on the internet. She is the most famous stock photo model and is used in articles and websites everywhere.
Stock Photos are High Resolution But Will Kill Your Brand
By definition, a stock image is designed to be able to be used in a lot of different circumstances. The more likely that image can be used in multiple content situations, the more likely you are to buy them and use them on your site. They have gotten a lot better over time, but still most stock images are made to look average or neutral.
Why is it bad to have a stock photo that looks neutral? Because by definition your brand is not supposed to be “average!” Your brand is supposed to help differentiate you from other companies on the internet and if you are using stock images everywhere, you will look like everyone else!
On the other hand, using high-quality, well-composed images can enhance your brand and make it more visually appealing. If you don’t feel like you have a good handle on how to take good-quality images, then consider subscribing. I’m planning on putting out an IOS and Android guide to quickly take amazing images on the fly that you can be proud to use on your website. Spoiler alert, canva is very much involved.
Some Stock Photo use is straight-up inappropriate.
As I mentioned earlier, Stock images are meant to fit a load of different types of circumstances. Because of that, you are highly unlikely to be able to find stock images for very niche content or websites. I ran into this problem recently on a medical website I was designing where very few of the stock images I could find for a specific surgery landing page, actually were actually about the surgery in question.
In fact, most of the images I came across were for general surgery and looked a lot like a stock image. We ended up needing to manually take photos of the equipment the client used in the procedure because it would have been inappropriate to try and photograph the procedure in progress.
Yes, sometimes you can get lucky but if your business is niche enough, you are unlikely to be able to find the exact right image you are looking for. Furthermore, if you do find the exact right image, chances are it looks like a stock photo and nothing like your brand.
Stock Images Can Pose Legal Issues
There are also some legal reasons that stock images suck. While many stock image sites offer royalty-free or licensed images, it’s essential to read the fine print. Some images may have restrictions on their use, such as limits on the number of times they can be used or the types of media they can be used in. Especially when you go to a “Free” stock image or stock video site, you may be required to credit the photographer or the videographer at the bottom of the blog post. If you don’t you could be in trouble for copywriter infringement.
By creating your own images or using images that you have permission to use, you can avoid these legal issues.
Look at the end of the day. Stock images have their place in the digital marketing world. But they have reached critical mass where nobody takes their own images anymore for their website. Its becoming an increasingly big difference between the big guys like Nike and the small local businesses. You may not think that people want to see your messy office, but you may be wrong. The biggest lesson I have learned in marketing is that marketing is about connecting with people. Stock images don’t do that. That’s the biggest reason why stock images suck.
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Disclaimer: None of the information presented on this site constitutes legal, business, tax, or medical advice. In each scenario, it’s recommended to first chat with a medical, legal, business, or tax professional before making any decisions.