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stock photos vs. real photos: which should you choose?

by | Nov 30, 2021

stock photos exist so you can easily select a professional image that’s already out there for your material.  they offer universal convenience and can save time.  they can also be impersonal.  real photos — or photos produced specifically for your product/brand — can be time consuming and require more planning.  but the end result is a photo that represents your unique brand in a way a stock photo just can’t.  we’re breaking down the when/what/where of stock photos and real photos to help you choose which is best for you.

what are stock photos? 

a stock photo is a photo produced for broad and generic use.  it typically comes from a searchable gallery where it can be purchased for use.  in simple terms: someone else took a photo of a certain subject and you can use it in your marketing materials — but it won’t be original. 

reasons companies use stock photography 

stock photography can be cheaper 

stock photos might be a cheaper option.  some stock photos are under a creative commons license and are free to use.  some can be purchased per image.  and some websites allow you to purchase a subscription for access to as many as you’d like.  any of these options would be cheaper than purchasing a new camera – backdrop – props – lighting – etc.

get access to photos immediately 

typically — when you purchase the rights to use a stock photo — you have access to download or use it immediately.  this means you don’t have to wait for post-production editing to start creating content with your photos.  if you use editing software like Canva to create brand content — you may have seen that they’ve incorporated stock photos into their website.

the cons of using stock images 

lacking originality 

stock photos are intended to be used by the masses.  there won’t be any details that make the subject of the photo unique.  using stock photos may also make your website or social media feed appear generic.

twinning with your competition 

if a potential customer sees that your brand is using the same stock photos as another brand — it looks insincere and lazy.  you may be losing customer trust by having images that look too generic.  think of when you’re shopping on Amazon and you come across a product that has the exact same photo for every product image — just with the color edited.  you feel like you’re not actually seeing the true product and therefore it’s difficult to trust.  when it comes to online brands — building trust with customers is so important!

confusing licenses 

unless you have a very clear understanding of licensing and usage laws around images — you may cause yourself headaches trying to puzzle out what you’re allowed to use for which purposes.  a mistake in the legal realm can really cost you and your business.

what are real photos or real images? 

we use the term “real photos” here to describe photos that were produced specifically for your brand and content.  they’re unique to you and you won’t find them anywhere else.

ready to make some content magic?

reasons companies benefit from using real photos 

higher association of ownership and trust 

we’ve all seen the weird duplicate effect on Amazon.  you go to search for a product and there’s five brands selling an eerily similar thing— even with similar product photos.  it’s hard to trust those brands.  when your images are unique to your brand — customers invest their time. attention. and trust into that product knowing that you invested your time. attention. and effort into creating the images!

higher conversion (especially for images with people) 

67% percent of users rated images as “very important” when searching for a product.  research suggest that humans (specifically facial features) in photos increase conversion rates.  taking the time to not only create high-quality product photos unique to your brand — but also employ model(s) may pay off in conversion. 

customers value real photos in ecomm 

research shows that images showing detail and providing specific product information will get more attention from viewers.  internet users are pretty well-trained on detecting a stock image.  they tend to overlook images that are used for “fluff” (like a generic woman smiling) and spend more time looking at images that give them info (if that woman is wearing your product to show how it fits).

collaborate with talented photographers

here at soona — we think this is the best part of “real photography”.  you get to work closely with an expert photographer in real-time to create exactly the content you want.  creating a shot list gives your photographer a clear idea of what you want and gives you total creative freedom.  photographers who specialize in product photography are 🪄magicians🪄 in the studio.

the cons of using real photos 

it can be a lot of work

you may have a high-quality camera and the equipment to create a set already.  if you want a DIY photo shoot you can also rent equipment from photography studios.  your third option is to hire a studio to take the photos for you.  (pro tip: soona offers you a chance to sit in on a virtual photo shoot in real-time— giving feedback as you go— and only purchasing the images you’re thrilled with!) 


it can be time-consuming

successful photo shoots require a lot of planning.  before you even start shooting: you’ll need to make sure you have all the product you’ll be capturing.  making sure it’s clean and blemish-free.  make sure you have the background 👏 lighting 👏 props ready to go.  once it’s time to start shooting: you may have to designate multiple hours to getting each angle and style of shot you’d like.  it can be an all-day affair!  having a studio like soona to collaborate with you can save you tons of time (and leg-work).


it can get pricey!

compared to stock photos— professional or DIY product photos can be expensive.  the price can vary wildly!  it really depends on the number of photos. type of props. and quality of equipment.  it’s important to note that high-quality product photos are an investment that pay off.  these are the photos that represent your brand and product: you pay for them upfront and then see the benefits of brilliant product photography through product sales and customer loyalty!

work with soona to create unique product photos

so you’re ready to take the plunge and invest in some high-quality product photography that is unique to your brand?  check out soona — you’ll be able to collaborate with incredible studio professionals in a virtual photo shoot while watching your vision come to life in real-time!  photos start at only $39.  with an a la carte style menu: you only purchase the photos you 💕 LOVE 💕.  get started at soona.co.  

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