In today’s market, the driving force always starts with budget, budget, budget. And as far as budgets are concerned, photos traditionally fall into three categories; the most expensive being custom professional photography, the next being rights reserved or stock photography, and the least expensive being the DIY (do-it-yourself) category. So it seems only logical that if you have a very tight budget to naturally only consider the stock photography or DIY categories because they are less expensive. But are they always? Let’s take a look.

What to consider when choosing your photography:

  1. Start with your long-term goals. You will save money if you think ahead. Is your photo going to be used in print where a high-resolution image will be necessary? Or will it be used only on the Web? The larger the image requirements are, the more difficult to shoot and the more expensive it can be in the DIY and stock categories respectively. An image purchased FOR the Web may look great ON your Website, but most likely, will not be able to get any larger than a couple of inches wide without losing significant quality and detail. If you are going to purchase stock photography, make sure to purchase the largest size available for not only your immediate purpose, but for future uses as well.
  2. Consider your company image or brand. Is your market highly competitive? Do you really want to see your image randomly showing up anywhere? With professional photography, you own the rights to your photos and have exclusivity to your own branded look. When you purchase stock photography, you also purchase the rights to use that image, and if you’re alright with the occasional clone popping up, stock photography can be very effective and cost-efficient. However, when it comes to providing a professional quality image to portray your company, most of the dangers lie in the DIY category. It’s not as easy as it looks getting the lighting just right to avoid unwanted reflections, glare and the all too commonly overlooked background disasters. And need I mention being in focus is always a plus?
  3. Photo manipulation. Everyone by now has heard of Photoshop® and what it can do. Yes, Photoshop IS a very powerful tool. You can modify, alter or recreate almost anything into something almost unrecognizable from where you started. This is true. As an example, I once created an image of a building in Photoshop that did not even exist yet. I had an architectural drawing and some photos with pieces of other buildings, backgrounds, skies, fire escapes, etc. available to me at the time. With a bit of perspective distortion and cloning, the end result did the job of representing a building available for construction. Was it as good as having a professional photographer shoot on location? Absolutely not. But, in that particular case, it was definitely cheaper than to actually build the structure and shoot it. On the flip side, I have also spent hours and hours on DIY images, trying to improve the quality, color, alter the shape or details of images with the end result of something that could have easily been shot professionally, and in focus, with the same cost and time in the end. Was it worth it? Probably not. To make your best decision, you will need to consider all of these issues before you proceed.
  4. Lastly, consider time. Sure enough, stock photos and DIY are pretty much indeed instant gratification. You see it, you buy it – it’s yours to use. That alone can save you time and money. But if you think you will need some serious manipulation should you go with the stock or DIY route, or – if you just can’t seem to find or shoot that perfect image yourself, then a studio or on-location photo shoot may actually be quicker and more cost-effective than manipulating a photo. Not to mention, you will have the professional end results you are looking for.

Granted, stock photography is here to stay. And with so many stock photography choices out there, stock photos and the DIY routes are viable options and indeed have their place in fulfilling the needs of many. But there is still no replacement for good professional photography with all its creative resources that are available. So whichever route you choose, just make sure you think through carefully all your options to make the correct decision for your project. Thanks for listening.