When and Where To Use Both Types In Your Brand


Google is more powerful than you think. Did you know you can use it to search for images the exact same way you can search for words? We’ll show you how to use Google image search. Let’s take that image at the top of this blog as an example.

STEP ONE: Go to the Google homepage and click images in the top right corner:


STEP TWO: Click the camera icon that appears in the search bar:


STEP THREE: Now, choose the image you wish to search for. You can do this in two ways:

  • Upload an image from your hard drive.
  • Copy and paste a web-based image’s URL.

Let’s do the latter:


STEP FOUR: Now click the blue ‘Search by image’ box, and voila! Google will return a list of visually similar images, and then list the pages that include exact matches:


The search results inform us that the stock photograph we chose appears about 1,040 results (1.65 seconds) times elsewhere on the internet. We certainly wouldn’t reproduce a written copy from another website – so why are we OK to use an image that 1,040 other people are also using? If a picture is worth a thousand words, isn’t that a thousand times worse?

What matters is knowing when and where you use stock photography. Stock photography can be a fantastic asset, but there is a time and a place for it – and a time and a place for you to go the extra mile and create custom photography.


The Case For Stock Photography


  • It’s Widely Available, and You Can Find (Almost) Exactly What You’re Looking For

    The range of stock photography available to the average user in 2022 is frankly astonishing. Worldwide, there are hundreds if not thousands of websites offering you access to the portfolios of countless talented photographers. On websites such as Shutterstock, Getty Images, iStock, and Adobe Stock, you can easily find images covering even the most obscure subject matter. You might not be able to find exactly what you want – but you can get close.

  • It’s Inexpensive and Quick

    Look at the image at the top of this blog once again. We found it available on iStock in under 15 minutes. We are able to commercially use it as part of our monthly subscription. That’s an incredible turnaround compared to taking a photograph of our own. Given that our monthly blogs cover topics as diverse as cybersecurity, oil and gas industry analysis, and seasonal marketing, we’d lose a significant amount of precious time every four weeks if we tried to make original photos for each.

  • It’s A Great Starting Point

    What you see doesn’t have to be exactly what you get. If you have a skilled Photoshopper close by, you can transform stock photos into something unique. We gave WJ Graphic Designer Jessica Taylor half an hour to work her magic on the photo below. This is what she came up with:



So, versatility, availability, and cost are all positives of stock photography. If that’s the case, then why not use stock photography all the time?

That’s a very simple question: is your company one-of-a-kind, or is it just like a hundred others?


When To Use Custom Photography


When used in moderation, stock photography can work perfectly for low-stakes media like regular social engagement and blog posts. A striking image – even if it’s not completely aligned with your brand – can quickly draw the eye, and then customized written content (much easier to produce) can engage the reader meaningfully.

Where stock photography must never be used, however, is on anything to do with the core tenets of your company: i.e., your abilities, what you believe in, and who you are.

On most websites, this will be the landing page and the ‘About Us’ section. Think about it from the audience’s perspective: if you are a company based in Red Deer, and all your imagery is from New York, at best, the reader would be confused. At worst, they would be suspicious and question whether your entire company is a scam.

An engaging video where your CEO personally explains your philosophy or a round of images showing your employees hard at work is as important and as humanizing as a handshake. Your company, your story, and what you can do are unique – so be unique!

  • Photography Can Be An Up-Front Investment – But It’s Worth It

    Hiring a professional photographer, videographer, or even a drone pilot can be what seems like a costly upfront investment – particularly when compared to stock imagery – but the vast improvement it offers over stock is that you can tell the photographer exactly the types of photographs you need. Most stock photography is deliberately staged to be vague, in order to sell to as many different clients as possible. A focused photographer with proper direction, however, can highlight your company’s specific strength in specific detail. This is a vital initial touchpoint in building trust with a potential client.

  • One Day’s Work Can Lead To Years of Benefits

    In a standard shoot, a good photographer will produce far more than the one or two ‘hero shots’ you base your website around. The remaining excerpts, b-roll footage, and even captured sound bites (depending on their range of services) can help form the basis of an ongoing social media campaign, for example. By being creative and purposeful, you can greatly increase the return you see on your investment, potentially for years to come.

  • You Can Tailor To The Seasons

    We live in western Canada. Nobody wants to be reminded of summer when it’s -40°C outside. By inviting a photographer to conduct a shoot in winter and another in spring – particularly if your company has outside operations – you can switch between imagery depending on the time of year. This is another subtle way to build trust with your audience. Even on a subconscious level, shifting with the seasons allows onlookers to perceive you as existing in the same world they do – and therefore much more real.


At WJ, we recommend every one of our clients plan for at least one round of customized photography or video footage, no matter their industry. Let’s look at it in action in two very different WJ clients:

  • Sheppard Creek Cattle Co.

    As a provider of premium, grass-fed Alberta beef to discerning gourmets, Sheppard Creek’s brand is brought to life by photography capturing life on their ranch. The golden light is timeless and serene, and the ranch hands at work could be from today or a hundred years ago. If a customer cares enough about their beef to source out an individual supplier, they care enough to want to know everything about that supplier. This photography builds trust and entices, simultaneously.

  • Fast Genetics

    On the other end of the agricultural spectrum, Fast Genetics is on a crusade to create the perfect pig through genetic engineering. Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of genetic engineering. What’s key in the imagery here is the humanizing element. Watch the video on their ‘About’ page – it’s filled with scientific equipment, yes, but it’s all in the background. Front and centre are Fast Genetics’ leadership explaining their outlook, industrious workers, and healthy, thriving livestock.


Stand Out From The Crowd


As with everything in life, knowing when to choose between using stock and custom photography is a matter of balance, insight, and instinct. It’s just one element of an overall successful branding strategy. If you’d like a little help raising your company above the generic on every front, WJ’s business architects are always ready and waiting.

(Don’t worry, we’ll make sure we film you from your good side.)