Ivan Apfel

Articles and Advice to Hopefully Inspire and Help You Get the Most Out of Your Images.

Stock Images: They Can Hurt Your Brand AND They Can Be Dangerous!

As more and more businesses have come to realize the importance of having an online and social media presence, the new catchphrase has become “Branding”.  And while branding is in fact incredibly important to the success of businesses as large as Apple and as small as a two person law firm, some businesses have been doing it using something that is not only counterintuitive but could also land them in some seriously hot water financially and legally;  that thing being stock images.  While most know that they are using stock images, there are some that may not even realize it because they are being provided to them by their “Branding Expert” as images that, according to them, match their branding.

What are Stock Images?

Simply put, they are images that have been shot by both professional and semi-professional photographers to be purchased for various uses ranging from educational, editorial as well as commercial usage.  That is where the danger comes in.  No professional photographer creates content for free.  They create content explicitly to make money based on the image usage.  Think of it like clickbait, the more people use their images the more they make.  They do not only make money on the number of people using their images, but also on how those people will use the images and how many times it will be used.  Branding Experts will often be providing you with stock images that they have culled from stock image sites based on the branding design they have created for you.  While this seems great, there are two very important reasons why you should stay away from this at all costs.

Why use a stock image of some random model when you can use someone your clients can actually meet?

Stock Images Makes You Look Generic

Stock images are great for editorials and articles because they are so generic that the reader would never confuse them for being related to anyone or anything mentioned in the editorial or article.  But if your goal is to portray an authentic representation of your business to potential and existing clientele, then you really want to stay away from any and all stock images.  You want your images to be reflective of your business or services and not something that could be confused with the hundreds of other businesses in your industry sector. While the images may look slick, the average consumer today is web savvy enough to know that these images are generic and not reflective of you or your products.  This makes it very difficult to convince consumer or clientele that you are original or authentic when all they see is generic imagery on your website and social media posts.  In some instances, consumers have found images appearing on a local business website also being used in a Huffington Post articles about totally different topics.

If food and beverage is your business, customers should see your food, drinks, staff and locations.

Stock Images Can Lead to Lawsuits and Fines

It is easy for branding experts and website designers to make you believe that stock images are cheap and safe.  Most people do not fully understand how stock image usage and licensing works so when the expert they hire tells them something, they tend to rely on that information. You can even do a Google search for “Stock Images”, “Free Stock Photographs” or even “Free Stock Commercial Usage Images” and you will find page after page of websites that offer you these items for free or cheap.  What you do not realize is that almost all of these sites are simply gathering images from online and adding it to their catalogue to give or sell to educators, designers and businesses.  What they are not doing is confirming image ownership and/or usage rights.  If you read their user agreements closely you will see them mention something along the lines of “users’ risk” or “user liability”.  What this means is that they cannot guarantee that by using the images you will not be violating copyrights or usage agreements.

There are really two different types of legitimate stock photography sites.  Those that specialize in more generic images and those that specialize in more unique and original stock images.  They both price the image based on how large a file version you want as well what kind of usage license you need for the image.  If you need it for educational use (students writing a report or teachers using it in a slide show) or an article on your blog, then the license is cheaper.  If you want to use them on your website it will be a little more.  If you want to use it to sell a product the license will cost you more and the most expensive license will be for use on mass printed material such as bags, flyers or printed advertisements.  The first will charge less but will allow an unlimited number of people use an image making them very generic.   The second will not only charge more for the licenses but will also only provide the license for a 12-month period in which you will need to re-purchase the license each year to continue using the image.

Regardless of whether you paid your branding expert or web designer for the images, you are the one who is solely liable for any license or copyright violations.  So, if you are found to be in violation of using them without proper permission or license you could be in serious legal and financial jeopardy.  Not only does the image owner or their licensing agent have the right to have your webhost suspend your website and social media accounts, they can then easily sue you for fines ranging from a few thousand dollars for minor violations up to millions of dollars in bigger cases.

So, What Is Your Best Image Option?

Reputable branding experts and web designers will always recommend that you hire a photographer who will work with them to create images just for your brand.  Often times they will have some on staff or speed dial who you can use.

Professional commercial branding photographers will sit with you and your branding, marketing or web design team to discuss both your business and branding strategy so that they can then create images that are unique to you and your business.  Most will charge a flat fee for a full branding package which will include editorial images, facility images, team headshots, product images, etc.  They also will offer monthly packages where they will provide you with a specific number or original content images each month if you plan to be social media posting heavy.  Their fee will also generally include a lifetime unlimited commercial usage release so that you never have to worry about when, where and how you use the images in the future.  

In the end, their images will be original and unique to your brand and their fees for this service is not only worth it but are very affordable.  Especially when compared to what the fines would be for using a single unlicensed image.

To learn more about how we can assist you and your business create images that truly match you and your brand, click here to visit our Branding Services Page





Stock Images: They Can Hurt Your Brand AND They Can Be Dangerous!

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