I had just finished a billboard assignment for a small chain of credit unions in Michigan. We were not using original photography. Rather, we used a series of trendy, colorful stock images of people. We placed small black rectangles over their eyes. The headlines confessed, “I’m Steve and I bank at a bank.”
The goal of the campaign was to remind Kalamazoo commuters that it really was quite shameful to pay ATM fees all of the other fees banks required. Our scrappy little credit union offered so much more for so much less.
It was a shoestring budget, but we were proud of the work. The boards went up. The client was happy and life was wonderful. We moved confidently forward with print ads, lobby posters and statement stuffers to support the campaign.
And then the phone rang. A frantic client informed our account executive that “A local cell phone company was putting up a board using one of our images.” We had to explain to her that it wasn’t “our image”.
A month later, a regional hospital used that same image for a patient campaign.
In all fairness it was a really nice image. And that’s the point.
Stock photography websites
Stock photography websites are chock full of images. But once you wade through the cheesy, the poorly lit, and the badly composed, you’re left with only a handful of decent images for a particular search term. And those images are purchased again and again and again.
If you’re going to use photography in your work, there are a few ways around this.
You can add effects to the stock photos in some way: color and texture overlays, or additional retouching and composite work. In our case, we thought obscuring people’s eyes with black bars would be unique enough. But the truth is, the stock image still showed through. So why use stock?
It’s cheaper. And faster. And cheaper.
The power of original images
It’s a fact that budgets don’t often allow for original imagery. And it’s possible to be creative within those constraints. But let’s imagine your budget MAY have some room in it for original photography. What does that get you? Here are five huge benefits to shooting original photography.
1. The sky is the limit on concepts.
Original photography allows for greater conceptual freedom. Outside the stock photography box lies a world of creativity and metaphor and subtlety and possibility. How unlimited could your ideas – your agency’s ideas — be if not restrained by what is available on the stock websites.
2. Original photography gives you more executional freedom.
With control over stylistic choices for wardrobe, casting, location and lighting — you are ultimately creating the world in which your brand exists. Photography affords you so many more options on how you execute your ideas.
3. Original photography puts your product or brand within a visual landscape rather than next to it.
HenkinSchultz recently finished a shoot for Showplace. The concept placed families and friends experiencing believable moments of life and love into beautifully designed Showplace Kitchens. Why? Showplace creates the spaces where your life happens. The concept would have been weakened had we used a stock photo of a family moment juxtaposed against some inset shots of Showplace Cabinetry.
4. Original photography allows for brand consistency and integration.
When you control wardrobe and lighting, props and color palette, you can integrate your photography with your brand’s other graphics, logos, colors and typefaces. Your photography becomes a part of a consistent visual tone for your brand.
5. Original photography is yours.
They’re your images. The credit union, the hospital and the cell phone company can’t use them. One of the primary requirements of any campaign is to break through. Stand above the sea of homogenized stock wallpaper by creating unique, beautiful imagery.
Photography is almost always a significantly larger investment in both time and budget, but the end benefit can outweigh the cost. If you just need a shot of a baseball, there are 500 beautiful still life shots of a baseball on istock.com. Sites like that have their place.
But if you’re looking for unique, consistent and integrated images that you won’t see on someone else’s billboard, original photography is the way to go. Ask us how you can up your photography game.