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Pros and Cons of Stock Photography

Crystal Kirkman - Bible study

"A picture is worth 1,000 words."

It's no surprise that good photography is dominating the graphic and web design scene right now. Photography, done well, can draw you into its borders and evoke a deep emotional response from the viewer. On the flip side, bad photography can kill the very purpose of your marketing mission.

That's why I have a love/hate relationship with stock photography. Let me share with you reasons why I both love and loath stock photography:

Real photos give the best representation of your ministry, non-profit, or business.

Photography on your print materials, website, and social media accounts should genuinely express your ministry or business. As much as we'd all love to have a racially diverse congregation that's multi-generational, that isn't usually a reality. So if you have those types of stock photos on your church's website, that's not a proper representation of your church. You are essentially lying to your guests about who you are to coax them to come. Yikes!

Last year, I worked on a project where our chaplaincy ministry wanted to reach out to low-income families and invite them to church. Love the idea! However, when a staff member viewed the first draft of a printed publication, they were concerned that a photo I used of our worship team was all Caucasian. They didn't feel like it would translate well to the diverse population they serve, and they're right! However, I explained to them that while in a perfect world we'd love to see more diversity on our worship team, that simply isn't the case at present. We'd be lying if we used photos with more diversity on our stage, and I would never want to fall short of expectations we inaccurately paint.

Stock photography can serve a purpose when used in an appropriate context.

While real life photography is my first "go to," stock photography can serve a purpose when used appropriately.

I'm currently working on rebuilding a website for a non-profit organization that serves those with special needs and provides counseling and addiction services. Because they must be sensitive to the privacy their clients' needs, we are only using real photography for a few things and the rest stock photography. Because we want to convey the compassion and care their clients will receive beyond text, we'll enhance that with stock photography.

Use a legit stock photography website.

If you are working on a project that requires stock photography, here are a few of my favorite websites:

  • This website provides great Christian photography that isn't cheesy. I've used them for a number of projects.

  • This is a fairly newer site, and the prices aren't too bad. Their inventory is growing.

  • This is the first stock photography website I began using 10 years ago.

  • This site has a huge inventory. They have many good patterned backgrounds.

You can also find lots of free resources on the internet, but be careful with copyright infringements. A $10 stock photo is much less expensive than a lawsuit.

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