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B2B Marketing: Stock versus Professional Photography

The price of custom professional photography has come under increasing pressure from license-free stock images, which have proliferated in the web era.  And for marketers who try to do “more with less” when it comes to their scarce resources, there are powerful incentives to go with stock photos.

But there’s also the question of whether these generic images are as compelling as ones you could use that are more clearly tied to your company, your products or your services.

As David Meerman Scott, the author of the book The New Rules of Marketing has stated, “The problem with the B-to-B happy, multi-cultural conference-with-computer shot is that it has become a cliché.  It is world-class, cutting-edge, mission-critical visual gobbledygook.  Just like written gobbledygook, this kind of image is so overused [as] to have become meaningless.”

When doing a cost-benefit comparison between stock and custom professional photography, frame the issue in terms of “relevance.”  Don’t make a decision based on which images make your marketing materials “look prettier” or which ones are “cheaper” to obtain … but on how well they communicate and support the value of your offer. 

Do this by addressing the “Three Rs”:

  • Is the image related to our core value proposition?
  • Is it relevant to the viewer’s situation?
  • Does it bring reality to our message that goes beyond the words?

Only if you can answer “yes” to these questions should you then weigh the relative quality and “authenticity” of stock image options, versus taking the plunge on custom photography.


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