Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Should You Ban Stock Photos from Your Blog?

The debate over stock photos vs. original photos churns up from time to time across the blogosphere. But there’s not really a single right answer.

At a recent blog chat focused on finding images for blogs, an old debate about stock photos briefly popped up. Again.

The discussion about stock photos almost always begins with those who seemingly refuse to use them chiming in with some claim that they’d rather use no photos than one they didn’t take themselves.

On this particular occasion, someone said that if he were to use stock photos, he wouldn’t “stand out.”

Like most blogging debates, the right answer is probably somewhere in the middle of the debate.

Yes, I use stock photos here.

I make no bones about the fact that much of the images you see here at Patrick’s Place happen to be stock photos. No one ever seems to complain about that.

Even if they did, what can I do? I write about a wide variety of topics. One week, I might have something to say about a court case in California. Another week I might write something about President Trump.

What do you expect? Should I just hop on a charter plane and fly out to the location I’m writing about and snap a few quick pictures and then come back and squeeze more hours into the day just to add a photo that I’d then have to hope would illustrate a topic as well as a stock photo might?  (Not to mention, should I honestly expect that Trump and the Secret Service would allow me to just waltz in to the Oval Office and photograph the Commander-in-Chief at his desk whenever the mood strikes me?)

I don’t think so.

Even if I were to focus solely on the topic that seems to get the most page views, grammar, what kind of photos am I supposed to take to support that topic?

We’re visual.

Think about it for a minute: we’re visual creatures. We like to see what we’re discussing, even if it’s only a representation of the topic.

Some of us — most of us, if we’re honest — would rather see that infamous “wall of text” broken up a bit. I know I would.

That’s not to say I won’t read a blog post that doesn’t feature any kind of visuals at all. But it is to say that a blog that does have visuals might make me more likely to look around a bit and see what’s there. Even if that visual happens to be a stock photo I might have seen somewhere else.

For me, the photo is more of a welcome mat to get me “inside the door.”

If you snap some sort of world-class photo worthy of the most prestigious photography award, by all means, use it. If you’re the type who has the inclination and can routinely make the time to photograph everything on your own and then write blog posts around the subject matter, by all means do so.

I’ve read plenty of blogs over the years that do that.

That’s not what I do. It’s not what I have been able to make time to do.

Yet somehow, I’ve been around for 14 years here.

It comes down to this: if a stock photo turns you off to the point that you won’t even read the subject matter, this blog probably isn’t for you. Here, it’s not about the image. It’s about the conversation.

You have to do what works for you. I don’t dispute that. You do you!!

If you prefer every photo on your blog be one that you took yourself, go for it.

I won’t “refuse” to read your blog because you take your own photos.

Why not try showing the rest of us the same courtesy?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.