Small businesses rely on their budget, and in many cases, growth and advancement rely largely on making reasonable investments that result in bigger profits. Sometimes, decisions are determined more by what is affordable, and less by what is ideal. In many instances, budget limitations can steer a small business to invest in things that can cheapen the image of a brand, such as primarily using stock imagery to represent the face of the company, instead of hiring a professional photographer. When it comes to brand marketing, blogging, or any other type of online advertising, stock images seem easier, relatively inexpensive (and in many cases, free) and don’t prompt any interruptions, like a photographer would require. This can result in a negative image for a brand, and it may be costing you more than money. Here are 5 ways that stock images, versus investing in proprietary photos, logos and icons for your business, can cause potential setbacks for your brand image.

1. Stock Images Can Make a Brand Look Fake or Cheap

Brand transparency and authenticity are paramount when it comes to consumer perception. Customers who don’t feel that they can trust, or believe, a brand will not buy their product. Stock images, as convenient as they may be, can potentially work against a brand’s overall image, as well as leave a bad impression on the consumer.

Stock images are, by design, generic. They are crafted to fit into whatever design scenario is needed for any particular project. Images that are even slightly unrelated to a product or service definition can cause a consumer to do a head twist and wonder what the image has to do with what they are considering buying. Is the company service or product fake, or maybe cheap? Proprietary photography clears up any mysteries. Also, there is a good probability that one of your potential customers has seen the exact photo, logo or icon on your competitor’s website, social media ad or printed media.

2. They Can Damage A Brand’s Uniqueness

In today’s highly competitive market, it essential to stand out from your direct competition. Unfortunately, it’s harder to stand out when stock photography, or even vector images like logos and icons, are over-used to represent your brand, potentially causing damage.

Using too many stock images signifies that you are not, or even trying to be, inherently different. Remember, these stock assets are also being purchased by other companies just like you. They may also be buying the very same photos, logos, etc. Having your own proprietary logo, photos and icons ensures that your brand stays unique.

3. It Can Unintentionally Align You With Your Competition

Try to think of stock photography in the same way that you would think of a company logo. It is exclusive to your name and to your reputation. You don’t want your brand being misidentified with someone else, or even with a bland or common concept. Chances are, your competition is also taking the easiest route, only buying stock imagery, which can potentially make you no different, or better, than your competitor.

4. Some Stock Images Can Land You in Legal Trouble

The last thing that a small business needs is to fall into the trap of copyright infringement. Especially from a large, and well represented, brand. Even a frivolous lawsuit, if handled improperly, can cripple your resources enough to jeopardize the entire company’s future.

While stock images are generally clear on how they can be used, depending on where you get them, there are still certain violations of use that can catch you off guard. For example, trademarking them in any way can be a breach of use. Whether you had prior knowledge or not, it’s a legal battle you would have to fight. Make sure to read the fine print on any stock image and make positively sure that you are using it within the TOS.

5. It Can Potentially Rob Your Brand of Its Unique Identity

Your brand represents your unique story, one that only you know and experience. While there may be similar companies in similar industries, they will never be exactly like you. The over-use of stock imagery can potentially rob your brand of its one-of-a-kind identity.

Stock photos are not detrimental if they is used correctly. For instance, blogging is essential to keeping a website fresh and gives your audience a reason to return, and this is where stock imagery can come in handy. Articles with no photo generally get passed over by readers. As long as the photo matches the topic of your article, it would make sense to look into stock image resources like Their photos are excellent quality and free to use.

That being said, these 5 rules really take effect when you are using a lot of stock photos on website content pages, social media ads, print media, etc. This is where making that extra investment into proprietary photography shows that you are proud of your brand, and that you are a real company with a unique identity.

So let’s sum it up. The best way to distinguish yourself from your competitors, and to avoid unwanted legal woes, is to hire a qualified graphic designer for your logo, and a reasonably priced photographer who can give you those stock photo quality images using your own brand. This will gratify your audience and build trust with your customers.

Need to know the best practices for choosing stock photography? Yes, we have an article addressing this exact subject. Read our previous article, How To Choose Stellar Stock Photos To Boost Online Sales. Still have questions? Contact our office and a member of the HG Team can help guide you to success!