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There’s No Free Lunch: The Pros & Cons Of Using Stock Images

June 3, 2019

Come on, admit it: you’ve checked out a few of those free photo sites.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

And if you blog, you’ve probably used some of them: slap
one in for your header image, and you’re good to go.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Almost too easy, isn’t it?blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Gotta be a catch, right?blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Well, yes…blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highpros and cons of stock images cheap or free but people ignore them no relation to content lack of brand personality you blend in rather than stand out


Your blog is part of your brand, and if you use stock images, you’re taking some risks.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Eye-tracking studies show that people ignore purely decorative images. They pay attention to real people, but ignore generic stock people.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

And there’s nothing to stop your competitors from using the same images– which means you have no creative control.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Not a situation that inspires trust.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

To quote creative director Vic Polkinghorne:blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

“If someone else is doing something similar to what you’re doing, or looks or sounds like you, you’re both in trouble.”blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

And it takes time, looking through free images, trying to
find a match. Odds are, you’ll settle for an image that only vaguely relates to your content.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Which tells readers you’re a brand that’s willing to take shortcuts.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Stock images are bland and generic, so they arouse no curiosity. That’s a mistake.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Marketing expert Andrew Davis says the key to successful content is creating a curiosity gap: something that makes the reader want to read on and know more.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

He puts it this way: “Raise a central question and entice your audience to chase the answer.”blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

A custom image created expressly for your content will do that. A stock image entices no one.blank vertical space, 32 pixels highto maintain audience attention need curiosity gaps raise question keep audience chasing answer marketing expert Andrew Davis

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highBrand personality counts for a lot: it says you’re human, authentic, the real deal.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Stock images diminish your authenticity because they’re “someone else’s vision, someone else’s interpretation of the idea, concept, emotion you’re trying to convey.”blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You really wouldn’t want to be associated with any of these people, would you?blank vertical space, 32 pixels highstock photo bland generic corporate people blobs shaking hands

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highProbably the worst thing about stock images: they make you blend in; you become indistinguishable from competing brands, because everyone’s using the same images.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

When you blend in, you become invisible. You have to make getting noticed your first priority.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Behavioral researcher Richard Shotton says the best way to do that is to be distinctive.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Custom images will help you do that. Stock images do just the opposite.blank vertical space, 32 pixels highprioritize being noticed above other goals best way to be noticed is to be distinctive behavioral researcher Richard Shotton
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About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, branding, social media, and content marketing. My images are different, like your brand needs to be.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Questions? Send me an email.blank vertical space, 40 pixels highRecommendation testimonial for Mark Armstrong Illustration from Mia Moravis award-winning Broadway producer filmmaker songwriter recording artist

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve Campbell permalink
    June 3, 2019 2:49 PM

    Nope, I haven’t used stock images at my blog. Never will. The following declaration will probably break hearts among the blog gurus, but I stopped using decorations to “spice up” my blog. And I ignore them … except yours, which are original and always give me a few chuckles.


    • June 7, 2019 1:13 PM

      What?? This wonderful comment should have been approved immediately!! Why the delay?? I demand an explanation!! Oh, wait… someone was a sloth, and I guess it’s me… 😳

      Thanks, Steve. I’d say an image falls into the “decoration” category if it doesn’t fit the written content, and help boost it in some way. I’m always grateful for your support– thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. June 3, 2019 11:03 PM

    Hi Mark! I agree with you 100%. There’s just something about stock images that get my creative skin crawling; yes indeed, sometimes I see the very same images multiple times, in whole, or in part. Sadly, I also concur that this is the default.

    Yet before I go on, a disclaimer. My blog isn’t monetized, in any way. So I offer what I say next with a grain of salt, so to speak: I do cut some corners. I’ve modified and redone existing images I find on the web, and, as I said, since my blog is non-profit, I hope that I am within fair use laws.

    Of course, being an artist, and being in a family of artists (cousin Don Bluth aside; he’s more extended), Julie and I will use our own artwork, whenever it’s possible. We are still asking our eldest, MM, to update a blog header they made for Julie way back in the day. MM took out an instructional book on how to draw dragons- I guess we’ll see.

    Thanks again for your thoughts, good sir. I know you haven’t all the time and space to respond to EVERYTHING I’ve said, but hopefully, it will stand as interest for another reader who’s wild enough to read all the comments, like me.


    • June 7, 2019 1:33 PM

      You read all the comments?? That deserves a medal, and I’m putting in the order now… Hi, Jak! Always good to hear from you.

      There are a lot of images you can use on your blog for free, but many of them require attribution. You don’t have to pay for them, but you do have to give the creator credit. That’s easily done: you just add a credit line and link back to the source image. You can read more about it on the Creative Commons site.

      Dragons? I’m familiar with ’em. They’re a common sight here in New Hampshire… 😬💦 Cheers, thanks for stopping by, wishing you the best!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Margy permalink
    June 4, 2019 9:38 PM

    The reason I started taking photographs was so I could have images for my blog! I also purchased a large number of Toonaday cartoons so that I could use them on occasion (plus the artist lives in a city near me.)
    Speaking of free, and nearly free – only a penny for our thoughts?! You really are on a tight budget, Mark!


    • June 13, 2019 8:30 AM

      Yup, people stop by here and put in their two cents, and I pay ’em a penny… it really adds up!! 💰💰💰 That’s how I became a mogul… 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. June 6, 2019 10:34 PM

    It’s tough for authors of books if they self-publish to pay a photographer or illustrator. This is precisely what my niece who self-published several of her own romance novels.


    • June 13, 2019 8:38 AM

      “There’s no free lunch,” and “Beggars can’t be choosers”– two of life’s hardest lessons, Jean. On the plus side: if you ride a bicycle, think how much you save on gas!! 🚴⛽️😊

      Liked by 1 person

      • June 13, 2019 8:53 PM

        yea, ….$300,000+ redirected to other uses when not a car owner/user in past 35 yrs. I did the estimate.


        • June 14, 2019 8:14 AM

          Whoa!– that’s quite a nest egg! Well, it’ll come in handy if you get a flat or your dérailleur falls off… 😊

          Liked by 1 person


  1. You Need A Header Image That Hums | Mark Armstrong Illustration Specializing In Content Marketing Advertising Editorial Infographics Animation Videos and Social Media

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