I will readily admit I didn’t know what stock photography was all about really, not when I first started out. I was, and probably still am, a complete novice when it comes to website creation but I wanted to get started! My website had a blog capability and I wanted to play around with it. Like I mentioned in my last article, we would all ideally have capital before we start, have a web designer and everything perfectly in place before we start our business adventures. Real life often has other ideas and many of us find ourselves at the helm of a business venture with no experience or money, but you have to do something with it! What you do is make a start. It is to those people I wish to talk to, those in the position that have to make the best of things they have at the moment.
So why use stock photography?
Perhaps you have an off the peg website builder for the moment like myself, and you wish to promote your goods and services, or your blog, and it gives the option to insert an image. It’s a good way to draw attention to your article and get traffic flowing in your direction. Stock photography can be ideal for selecting an image to partner with your blog article. It looks professional and glossy so everyone is a winner. It is a lifeline to those who are starting out and money is always an issue to begin with.
You may also lack the skill and experience to produce good quality photographs. Without doubt photography is highly skilled and a dodgy photo can detract from a great article and lose the interest of your readers. It’s all about engagement as well as content, and you do not want to lose them at the first hurdle. Another problem may be that you do not have the equipment or the contacts to get a good photo shoot done, particularly if your blog goes out fairly regularly as blogs do! If you are limited with options due to these common issues, stock photography is a good resource when used carefully.
A great bonus to using stock photography is how easy it is to use, even as a beginner. Instantly it downloads and you can effortlessly upload it from your device onto the blog. Resize, crop and alter to your heart’s content and you are good to go in a few moments! I found it helped to build my confidence and teach me a lot about managing my creativity to promote my message.
What are the risks of using stock photography?
A number of minefields here, and you do need to tread lightly! There are a huge amount of sites to choose from so you need to be clear what you are looking for in the first place. The issue I would check first is make sure you match the right site for your needs. I initially used Shutterstock as it was the only one I recognised. I had no money to put towards images and went for the free option. As with many sites, every image was watermarked right across the middle with their logo, cheapening and ruining the effect. I would advise checking to ensure which are free and which require accreditation. I did not change my earlier blogs with new images, as I am not going to rewrite history. It’s a testament to a journey, and my initial blogs were a little rough around the edges!
The other risk is understanding exactly what is meant by ‘free stock photographs’. You can pay a subscription to use photographs that are under copy write ownership by the original creator of the image. The original owner can submit images to the site, but they still own the image and require payment for their creation. However, there are free options where you are given permission to use images for free. This means you are permitted in most cases to use an image for the header of a website, or a blog article. It does not mean you are allowed to print it on t-shirts, mugs or merchandise that will allow you to make money from the image. Be very clear on your obligations when using images viewed by the public.
There are drawbacks to using photography. In my opinion, for what that is worth, I believe stock photography is a wonderful resource to get started with. It is an easy to use resource that allows you to devote more of your time to finding your voice, building your tribe and making a digital mark in the interwebby world! I also believe that it should be a temporary situation. I have found personally that there comes a point where you have found your professional voice and have built a community that is unique to you and your ‘tribe’. Stock photography will no longer reflect that individual vibe you have fostered and it is time to move forward and step into your identity.
Over time I would recommend phasing in new habits to capture your business essence in your own photography. Start taking a few classes in basic photography, even if it is an online Facebook group assisting. Maybe once you have a little money, get decent (albeit second hand) photography equipment and start getting creative. Stock photography cannot capture your vision, so you must do it. Once you are able to create your own photographs and images, you then have the wonderful option of titling your images and using them to support your SEO efforts. The ideal scenario is to copy write your own images and tie them to your brand, supporting your brand identity and supporting your SEO efforts all in one go. That way if someone uses your image, they must give you accreditation or payment, and that’s all good now isn’t it?
A lot of people look down on stock photography, but in my opinion it is a start. I was going to write an article comparing and reviewing sites, but it has been done many times by those much more educated about the process than I. My suggestions would be to ensure you know the rules and regulations of use for each individual site. A decent knowledge of the law would not go amiss. If you are unsure I would thoroughly recommend this link http://www.stockphotorights.com/faq/ If you are at the stage where you can only afford stock photography, you can definitely not afford a costly lawsuit! I would also opt for the sites where you can search for your own themes so you don’t have to trawl through irrelevant stuff and have to use something vague. Usability is a big plus when deciding to choose a site for yourself. I suppose I am saying that using stock photography will help you find your voice and creative persona, but once you do it is time to develop that on your own terms.