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18th July 2016 /

Original photography v Stock

original photography, photography services

Not too many years ago, when a client needed photography, 99 times out of 100 we'd click a camera, not a mouse.

Stock libraries used to be filled with awful imagery. Poorly lit, composed and for the most part totally useless.

When I worked on the Sekonda account, we created a really simple, but effective campaign that featured all manner of creatures including a panther, ostrich, dachshund, shark, piranhas and even a pair of koalas.

All of the critters were photographed in studios or on location in the UK, but koalas proved to be a lot trickier. At the time, the only place they could be found was in Australia. It had something to do with their diet – the variety of eucalyptus leaves they needed just wasn't available anywhere else in the world.

So reluctantly, we started trawling stock libraries and try as we might, there were no suitable images. To get anywhere near what we needed, it would have entailed buying half a dozen photographs and creating a pair of Frankenstein's koalas in Photoshop. To do this would have cost more than jumping on a plane with a photographer and spending a few days in Brisbane, so that's what we had to do. Oh, the sacrifices we have to make for our craft!

Of course, stock libraries have grown up somewhat, and with millions of photographs to choose from, there's a lot more chance of finding the right image for the job. So why bother with creating original imagery?

Your brand is unique, so buying images that are available to all of your competitors can be a risky strategy – would you want them to have the same logo or use the same typefaces? Royalty-free images often don't have quite the right crop or angle, so design can be compromised. Also, great stock images can still be prohibitively expensive, especially rights-managed, so it's sometimes still more affordable to employ a photographer and art director to get exactly what you're after.

Don't get me wrong, photo libraries definitely have their place, but next time you're looking for that perfect image, don't think that stock is your only port of call.

And by the way, just in case you're wondering, no, we didn't actually put watches on animals.

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