Are stock photos really worth your time in your content strategy?

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You’ve likely heard me rant about crappy stock images and the importance of getting unique photos.

With that being said though, sometimes it’s impossible to get images to a post, which happens to me quite often actually.

Good thing there are options:

Option 1: Publish a post without images

Yes, that’s allowed. I remember the days when I had a client who demanded stock images. The writing took less time than searching the endless pages of cartoonish images. Ugh.

Also, one point of online content distribution is to be found in search. Stock images won’t help with that but unique images tagged well can boost your SEO rankings.

It comes back to Return on Effort (ROE). Looking for an image for three hours – did that pay off? And especially if the image was bad.

Related: How all publishers cannot just copy other people’s content

Valerie Dennis Craven, editor-in-chief of Buildings Media, reminded me that if you must use a stock image, make an effort to not make it look like a stock image. The truth!

Option 2: Use stock art as a design base

That brings me to Option 2. I’ve seen teams use stock as a base for a new design. Be aware of licensing. This seems like a smart idea to me, though I can’t tell you if it’s easier for designers to do this or just start from scratch.

Option 3: Stock art sites like Shutterstock

That site has been around forever – it seems – and I was impressed recently how many options it gave me searching for “natural disaster.”

And they have relatively cheap pricing:

And while the $29/month pricing for 10 images can be good for us budget-conscious it can also mean that many end up using the same images. ?

Most consumers likely won’t notice but some might and I certainly have seen the same stock images of diverse groups of people huddling around a laptop – smiling – way too many times now!

Overall, it seems Shutterstock has come a long way and it’s worth evaluating for your needs. Just maybe don’t always get the image showing on the top of searches.

Option 4: Getty Images

Getty Imageshas a ton of original and awesome photography. Especially helpful during breaking news events.

Images are a lot pricier – often around $600 per. I look at Getty as a bit of a wire service. Need a breaking news photo? That’s where I would recommend going.

Do I need to be spending that kind of money for an image though? It depends. How much did you pay for the article? On here, it’s just me so cost is low. I would be hard pressed to spend that kind of money. Even for the posts that make that kind of money. Heck, they are already doing well – even without the added cost image. Would adding an image drive performance? We wouldn’t know until we try, but that’s an expensive try for me, at least.

Some companies pay a couple grand for an article. Then they spend even more for paid promotions. Adding a good image doesn’t seem to be unreasonable.

Related: How a promotions strategy is different from a distribution strategy

So what’s the verdict on stock images?

There are many other sites out there, of course, and these are just examples.

I haven’t necessarily changed my overall opinion of stock art use (as opposed to original and unique images) but the industry seems to have come a long way and evolved nicely.

It’s really another tool for your digital marketing toolkit. Then the trick is to pull the right tool. That screw won’t be screwed in using a hammer!Sometimes stock images are the way to go and sometimes not so much.