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Using stock photography vs paying for a photo shoot

by Meg

girl holding camera taking photo in street

In this post, we’ll weigh up the pros and cons of paying for a professional photoshoot vs finding and using stock photos for your website.

Stock photography

It’s fast.

Being able to go to a stock photography website and choose your images is a fairly fast process, and you don’t even have to be in the office to do it. It can be a lot quicker than finding a photographer;

  • Whose style you think suits your brand
  • Booking them
  • Waiting for their availability (if they have a lot of work on, this could be weeks/months)
  • Preparing for the shoot,
  • Doing the shoot (this could be up to a whole day, depending on what you’ve booked)
  • Waiting for the photographer to edit the photos and send them to you (again, this could be weeks/months depending on how busy they are).

What you end up with is a portfolio of high-quality bespoke photos that you can use again and again for a multitude of different applications, but if you are on a time budget, these wait times might send you over your limit.

It can be free.

Stock photography can be free, so is perfect for those who are on a budget, but still want professional-looking photos. In my last post, I walked through how to find and use free stock photography for your website.

Thousands of photos to choose from.

There are hundreds of stock photography websites across the internet, meaning that there are thousands upon thousands of photos to choose from, right at your fingertips.

Who else is using the images you’ve chosen?

There is a chance that the photo/s you choose, could also be being used by your competitors. Remember to always check your competitor’s websites to make sure you are using different photos. Even if your businesses do the same thing, it’s good to try to remain as individual as possible.


Some stock photos will require licensing to be able to use them. This means you either have to pay to use them, can only use them in certain circumstances, or have to give credit to the photographer in some way. Make sure to follow instructions, or you may open yourself up to legal risks.


Some stock photography sites can be expensive. For example, buying images from Adobe Stock Premium could mean paying £100 (or more) per photo. Their different license agreements do mean that you could potentially use it wherever you like, and the license never expires, but if you are on a budget, this might not be a realistic option for you.


You don’t have to worry about licensing.

When you have photos taken by a photographer, generally you will be allowed to use the photos for whatever you like, whenever you like, for however long you like. This amount of freedom is potentially something you won’t get from using stock photos, especially if you buy photos with limited licenses.

Everything is personalised to you.

Photos will be taken in situ, using your actual working environment and actual employees as opposed to unrelated office/work settings and people who don’t actually work with you. They are purely individual to you, and that can make for some very good user perception for your brand. People like to see images that aren’t used elsewhere - staff photos and office/shop/on-site shots are a great example of this. They give the user an idea of who you are as people, and a sneak peek into how you work.

Cost & timing.

If you are on a tight budget, booking a photographer is almost always going to end up costing more than choosing stock photos. Photographers can also be very busy. If you have time constraints, this may not be the best option for you. There can potentially be ways around this, though;

Why not try to look for photographers who are taking bookings that are new to the scene - they will tend to be less expensive than photographers who have been doing it for years, and the photographer will also be happy that they are getting some work. You may also find that this means they aren’t as busy - so wait times for availability and receiving the photos might be shorter.

If you have a little money to spare, why not have just a staff photo shoot with a photographer. You can book your chosen photographer for less time than you would with a full business shoot, and have some unique photos for your site. The rest of your site can then be stock photos that you’ve carefully chosen to represent your brand.

In conclusion.

I don’t think there is necessarily a “right” way to find photos for your website. Different websites and businesses require entirely different types of photography. Ultimately, it all comes down to your budget and time constraints, and whether or not you want or need something specifically tailored to you. There are also always ways to work around these factors and get the best of both worlds if you do a little more searching.