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What Stock Photography Says About Your Blog (+ Why It’s Worth Ditching for Local Talent)

Stock photography looks like stock photography. We can pick a stock photo out of a lineup and recognize it for exactly for what it is: an image that someone has produced, and thousands or millions have already seen. Unfortunately, if you intend to use it for your blog/site/promotional campaign, it can say some things about you that you may or may not realize. For example, an overused stock photo might indicate to a reader that they’ve already read the article, even though they haven’t. There are plenty of articles to point you in the direction of annoyingly overused stock images, but not enough telling you the alternative: creating your own library of photos and art.

At this point the Internet is used by one third of the human population and that number is growing exponentially by the day. Problematically, this means that every day blogs, websites, and promotional campaigns are launching and they all need imagery to go along with them.

The problem with just subscribing and using stock photography is that you need to be aware that it looks like like stock photography and also it is most likely being used in other places on the world wide web. And since people use imagery to make decisions quickly, an overused stock image can be the difference between someone reading your blog, and someone clicking away because they think they’ve already read it.

For instance, I Googled “Top Christmas Blogs” just to see if I could find a blog site that uses stock photography along with a list article. Sure enough, the first hit was a straight up stock photo:

What Stock Photography Says About Your Blog (+ Why Its Worth Ditching for Local Talent)

I then took the photo and used it to do a Google image search for correlated image hits on other sites. You may not know it but, Google has a way for you to upload a photo to find out where else the image is on the web. Here’s one way and here’s another.

What Stock Photography Says About Your Blog (+ Why Its Worth Ditching for Local Talent)

There were 91 different websites with that image uploaded to it! Some of those image usages are even on competing websites. Even more interestingly, it took me all of five minutes to find out who the owner of the image was.

Tyler Olson is a stock photographer from Norway who has shot tens of thousands of stock photos. That means if you have looked through any stock photography site you probably didn’t even know it, but you probably looked at one of Tyler’s photos.

Now – there is nothing wrong with using Tyler’s stock photos, in fact most of them are simply stunning. I am guessing, however, that the stock photos you have used in the past have a story that connects to a person like Tyler then you never even knew about.

In a world of Instagram, Flickr, open license imaging, and affordable digital cameras, consumers are becoming deftly aware that all photos have stories. I would argue that the better the story, the more interesting the photo. With consumers producing more and more art and photography, they now see themselves as artists/photography experts. And why not? If Instagram, Gopro, and Lytro have anything to say, it’s that all human beings/consumers have the right to be beautiful photographers. And why not? Taking photos is fun!

Stock photos are great, but why not hire local?

So let me ask you this, what are the photos on your blog hoping to say/accomplish? Are they just posted in flash to keep people interested in what your copy is trying to say? Tyler’s photo, for reuse, would probably run you fifteen dollars. What if, for the same price, you were able to get photos developed by local, aspiring photographers, for the same price? Would you do it?

The advantage of reaching out to the amateurs is that they will see you as helping them become professionals, and probably even respect you for it. They may even tell their friends about your product and the story of how you helped them. Now, all of the sudden, your blog photo has a story. Your image investment now isn’t just an image that can be found on 91 other websites across the internet, it is a unique piece of art that has a sales force behind it. A sales force that is determined to help you out the way you helped this unique piece of art be born.

Choose to make your stock photography art. Hire photographers. Hire illustrators. Hire artists. (Hire Us.) Tell a story with your work.

Patrick Yurick, Lead Illustrator

Patrick has been working as an art educator in southern California for the last six years. His passions are for telling stories and designing ways for people to learn. He's recently gotten internet-famous for his series My Arm: the Comic and is the author of Hipster Picnic. He's a regular moderator and panelist at Comic Con International, has been on the ground floor of the MOOC movement and, as if he didn't have enough to do, is the founder of Little Fish Comic Book Studio and current CEO of MakingComics.com. He has a degree in graphic design from the New England Institute of Art and an art education degree from Plymouth State University.