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Ditch the stock photos: Here’s how real photos make your business look like the real deal

In a blog post from last year, we discussed how authenticity in digital marketing could yield positive results for local businesses. A big part of building an authentic marketing campaign is having the right photos.

That’s why, in this post, we’re going to talk about stock photos. Keep reading to learn more about what makes them bad (and some of them good), as well as what your business can do to get more real photos for your campaign.

What are stock photos, anyway?

We’ve all seen them. Some are so silly that they get turned into memes and played for laughs. Stock photos are all over the web, and, while easy to spot, they’re hard to avoid seeing—or using, for that matter.

An example of the type of stock photo that you want to replace with a good, real photo.

“Stock” images are photos shot of certain subject matter—people, places, things—that are then made commercially available for people to download. Some stock images are free, others require a subscription, but most can be purchased for use one at a time.

Stock photos are popular and used by thousands of companies because there’s a central conflict in the construction of the modern web:

Websites, social media platforms, and local listings have all moved to image-centric layouts and designs.
At the same time, high-quality photography from a professional photographer (more on this later) remains an expensive proposition for many small to mid-sized businesses.

Stock images fill that niche. In a way, these images represent many businesses greatly splitting the cost of that one professional photography.

So, what’s the problem, then?

Why are stock photos a problem?

Images tell a story about your business. Unlike text—which the site visitor has to decide to read—images convey information in an instant glance. Much of this information is subtle.

If you were a plumbing company that used a stock picture of a poorly dressed, dirty plumber on your site, your site visitors might make some negative inferences about your employees.

In a similar way, some stock images are so common and so blatantly inauthentic that it makes your business look inauthentic. Even though the stock image is well-shot, well-lit, and—from a technical perspective, at least—is a good photo, it can turn people off because they know it’s not actually from your business.

Many stock photo use beaming models, which gives them an artificial feel.

That matters because customers are local. It’s why we emphasize local marketing: more than ever, search engines and site visitors are searching for things in their area that are real to them. Stock photos just don’t convey locality. In fact, some argue that they do the opposite.

Even if customers don’t jump off of your site at the site of one stock image, that image can subliminally impact the way they think about your business. A real, authentic photo would make a much better impression.


Having any photos is still better than having no photos on your website. That’s because so much of modern web design is centered around images. Without them, you’d have a website of just text and headers, which no one wants to look at or read.

Again, images instantaneously convey to site visitors what your business is about in subtle ways. An absence of images doesn’t give those visitors much to work with, and often comes across as unprofessional.

That’s why we use stock photography in our marketing campaigns if there are no other images available.

It should also be noted that not all stock photos are created equal, either. While some are eye-roll inducing, others are actually quite useful and professional. At 5 Fold, we work to find the right stock photos for your business.

Real photos convey authenticity

Great photos can be a game-changer for your website and digital marketing campaign. Here are just a few of the things that authentic, real photos convey to your site visitors:

  • Any random person can buy stock photos, but the fact you have real photos of your real employees means that you’re probably not a scam or fraud.
  • Your employees have actual uniforms and look professional while working, which conveys trust to future customers.
  • Images of your business or storefront help customers find your place of business.

How do I go about getting real photos?

Let’s return to something we discussed earlier: professional photography. While the cost of hiring a professional photographer may be prohibitive for your business, depending on your area, there are many other things you can do to get us high-quality images of your business:

  • Take Photos With Your Own Phone: Most of today’s smartphones contain powerful cameras that are capable of taking great, web-quality photos. This means that many business owners and employees can take their own photos. Here’s our tips:
    • Know what you’re going to shoot ahead of time, and make sure your photo has a central subject in the frame.
    • Shoot outside or where good lighting exists to make sure your photo is well-lit.
    • Steady the camera and take multiple shots, so that you can get one that is clear and not blurry.
    • Take photos of both people and things for a wide variety of shots.
  • Find Your Photographer: This can involve hiring a professional. Be sure to check out a service like SmartShoot for access to freelance photographers. However, you may also be able to find a family member or employee with photography experience or an interest in photography. If you’re not comfortable with the camera, have this person shoot your business.

Once you have some great photos, send them to your digital marketing team at 5 Fold. We’ll make sure they’re put to good use on your website, social media platforms, and in your local listings.

Have more questions about getting great photos for your business?

For more tips about how to get great, authentic photography for your business, get in contact with our team here at 5 Fold Marketing.