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If you’ve been paying attention to our most recent blog series about photography, you know that the visuals you display on your websites, social media pages, advertisements, print pieces, and all other marketing collateral are vital to the success of your campaign or marketing efforts.

If you haven’t been paying attention, catch up with these articles:

If you don’t feel like catching up on the articles, trust us—the visuals you use in your marketing, especially the photography, are extremely important to how well or how poorly your audience will receive your message.

How your brand presents to audiences visually helps reinforce a positive or negative public image, and it all depends on the imagery you choose to put out into the world.

There are two main types of photography your company can rely on for marketing: stock photography and custom photography.

What Is Stock Photography?

Stock photography involves licensed images available for commercial use. It is an extremely convenient way to obtain or collect photographs for projects that require visual elements or need some added pizazz. With the right stock image, you can enhance or even shape the look and feel of whatever piece you are creating.

There are many stock image libraries to browse through, with archived images that capture all sorts of emotions, actions, conceptions, or overall vibes. Whatever image(s) would fit your project, there is probably a stock option out there for you.

Pros of using stock photos:

  • Easy to purchase
  • Can be affordable (sometimes)
  • Wide variety of images to choose from
  • Versatile images that can be used in multiple applications

Cons of using stock photos:

  • Images can be noticeably generic
  • Too many stock photos can water down a message or brand image
  • Images can appear inauthentic to your brand
  • Can be overpriced (sometimes)
  • Licensing rights can be tricky to understand and could land you in hot water if misused

Licensing Rights and Stock Images

Let’s talk about that last point on the cons list, the one about licensing rights. Stock images are almost always copyrighted photographs that have licenses attached to them. There are a few types of image licenses you may come across:

Royalty-Free License

A photo with a royalty-free license means that you can purchase the image once and use it for an unlimited amount of time and in many different ways. Be careful, though, because royalty-free photos still come with limitations that are set by the agency you are purchasing from. The most common limitations include:

  • No transferring—You cannot transfer the license to another party after purchase. In other words, you cannot share your photo with someone else so they can use it.
  • No exclusive images—Images available for purchase can be bought by an unlimited number of people or entities. If you want to be the only one in possession of a photo, look for a rights-managed license.
  • No reselling—Royalty-free images cannot be used on products available for purchase (mugs, t-shirts, posters, etc.)
  • No over-distributing—Most agencies have distribution limits for their royalty-free images. For instance, most have reproduction restrictions that prohibit buyers from printing more than 500,000 copies of the image. (Some limit reproduction further to 250,000 copies.)
  • No time limits—Once you’ve purchased a royalty-free image, you can use it for as long as you’d like.
  • No location limits—Royalty-free images can be used domestically or internationally once purchased.
  • No application limits—You can use your purchased image in as many ways as you’d like, whether it be in print or digital form.

Please note that these standard rules or limitations can differ from agency to agency, and some agencies can alter their limitations if they’d like. For instance, while most photos do not have time limits, an agency may alter an image’s limits to only being useable for one year after purchase, or anything along those lines.

Rights-Managed License

Rights-managed licenses are for buyers who want exclusive rights to an image for their project. Once purchased, a competitor may not buy the image, hence giving the buyer exclusive rights to the photo.

Rights-managed photos include terms and conditions for image use, and every use of the image must be accounted for. To purchase these photos, the buyer must specify how and where the image(s) will be used. Specifications the buyer must provide include:

  • What project the photo will be used for
  • How many printed copies the image will appear in
  • How long the image will be used
  • The image size needed
  • What industry or industries the image will be used in

As long as the use of the image satisfies the terms and conditions outlined in the agreement, the buyer is free to use the image purchased. If the buyer wants to use the image in a different project than the one they originally purchased the image for, there will need to be a renegotiation and a repurchase of the license.

Extended License

An extended license, or a royalty-free extended license, allows the buyer more freedoms or extra rights when using the image than they would have with a standard royalty-free license. Extra rights include:

  • Unlimited reproduction or printing rights
  • Unlimited use in multimedia distribution
  • Ability to use the image on products to be sold (mugs, posters, t-shirts, etc.)

Editorial Use License

Editorial use licenses, or editorial royalty-free licenses, are image licenses that specify editorial use only, meaning the images can only appear in non-commercial applications. Editorial images are used to visually represent an idea, concept, event, or piece of news in a magazine, newspaper, website, presentation, or any other application that is neither promoting nor selling a product or service.

Creative Commons Licenses

A Creative Commons license is one in a series of copyright licenses that allow a copyrighted image to be distributed for free as long the user abides by the conditions specified in the license. Creative Commons licenses provide the image owner control and flexibility with how their image can be used or distributed.

With most Creative Commons photos, the user may use the image for free as long as they provide the right attribution to the original owner. Without attribution or adherence to other conditions specified by the license, the user may be found guilty of copyright infringement, which can result in a pricy fine.

Public Domain

Images in the public domain are those without a license attached. They are free for commercial use, and no attributions are required. Public domain images can be used by anyone in any way.

What Is Custom Photography?

While stock photography is often generic, pricey, and can come with a lot of rules or conditions to abide by when using the images, custom photography is all yours, and the photos are all about your business.

Custom photography means:

  • You are the owner of the photos.
  • You are in control of what the images depict.
  • You have all the say in the world about where and for how long your photos are used.

Custom photography is just that—customized to your business and owned entirely by you.

Why Custom Photography over Stock Photos?

Marketing is all about conveying your mission, purpose, values, and goods and services to your audience. It’s all about telling your company’s story, and photography is a crucial component of this process. While you can use stock photos to help enhance your marketing efforts, nothing stock-related will come close to custom photography that captures your specific story.

Stock photos can only go so far in achieving your visual goals, while quality custom photography naturally depicts your business, elevates your brand image, and pushes your story further. It instantly shows your audience exactly who you are and what you do.

With quality custom photography, you can:

Set Expectations for Your Target Audience

Custom photography shows your target audience who you are before they ever initially interact with your company or team. It serves as a first impression for many soon-to-be customers and can play a significant part in drawing them in so they will choose you for the products or services you offer.

Create an Engaging Experience for Your Audience

Photos that show your team in action or working with customers, show your products in use, or show the individuals who make up your company can all create an engaging experience for audiences observing the images on your website, social media pages, advertisements, or other marketing collateral.

Show Your Values in Action

It’s one thing to write your values down and post them online or in print. It’s another thing entirely to show your values in action through quality photography. Photos can capture your trustworthiness, show off the quality of your offerings, highlight the care you have for your customers, and so much more.

Put Faces to Your Name

Headshots, group shots, and candids of your team help customers see who you are, literally. It allows you to show the faces of the team members who represent your business and interact with customers on a daily basis. Providing team images humanizes your company, which is always beneficial in today’s business landscape.

Instill Trust

When audiences can understand who you are through your photography, they are more inclined to trust your business and see the authenticity behind your marketing efforts. Stock photos are good for creating a generic story, but they can never provide a sense of validity like custom photography of your business can.

What Custom Photography Is Available?

From team headshots to office environment photography, action shots, product photography, aerial photography, event photography, and so much more, there are unlimited ways you can capture your business and your team.

Discover the various types of photography you can capture from our recent article: Headshots, Candids, and More: Types of Commercial Photography.

It takes a vision to capture compelling custom photography for your business. When it’s time to elevate your marketing significantly, turn to the photography experts at M&R Marketing.

Our in-house marketing team knows the value of high-quality visuals, and how effective customized images are in all marketing campaigns or strategies. We offer comprehensive photography and videography services that capture your entire business, from your team and products to your values and mission. And your final results will never look like stock.

Contact one of our business development managers today to learn more about the benefits of our custom photography services.

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