When making a decision, I’ve always been a fan of the pro-con list. Below are a few points to help weigh your decision between using stock photography and having a photo shoot.
Stock photography pros:
• Usually cheaper than a photo shoot
• Instantly accessible
Stock photography cons:
• Rights-managed images are expensive
• Image selection is limited by what exists
• Costs may carry over from year to year
• Competitors can use the same images
Photo shoot pros:
• Able to produce the exact image you desire
• Usually able to control image rights
• Can capture additional footage with scheduled photo shoots
Photo shoot cons:
• Long lead time due to casting, location scouting, etc.
• Uncontrollable forces such as weather, illness, etc.
Most budget-conscious clients ultimately end up going with stock photography because it is usually less expensive. This is not, however, always the case. Consider whether the stock photography you’ve selected is rights-managed. If so, royalty costs are based on image impressions and recur every year. Also, obtaining the rights to an image for use in one medium doesn’t always allow use in all mediums. If you need the stock image in multiple sizes — or similar images from the same series — costs will compound.
On the photo shoot side of the coin, can you schedule a shoot for the same cost as purchasing stock images? Probably not. However, you may be settling for an image that’s “good enough” versus a great shot for your project.
Budget may ultimately win out, but it’s important to consider all aspects of a decision before making the move to find your image.