Where You Can Find Great Images That Are Not Stock Photography

It doesn’t take a marketing guru to understand that today’s consumer has become very visual. Try scrolling through social media, an online advertisement, or just browsing one of your favourite blogs. What you’ll discover is that imagery is how we communicate, and it almost always speaks louder than words. Read on to learn about not stock photography that will set your brand apart, and then head over to this article to discover more about why you’re going to love unique images for your content.

The big question is: where do businesses like yours source the images they need to stand out and get noticed online? There are plenty of stock photography sites, but to be honest, many of them feel a little cheesy and lacking inspiration – and that’s being kind.

Are there sources for businesses that do not want stock photos touching their content? Can you cultivate a visual image without paying for a professional photographer? Are you doomed to relying on less than adequate stock photos, or is there a real, viable solution? Here’s our take on it.

Man photographed man and woman, all sitting on big letters outside
Copyright 2019 Helgi / Photocase, all rights reserved.

You want to know immediately, where to find not stock photos? Then have a look at Photocase!

To discover the ultimate content to power up your designs, check out our full Photography Trends 2020 report!

Is There Such a Thing As Unique Not Stock Photography?

Here’s the thing about stock photos. Your choice of images, whether for an ad, social media (like images for Facebook for example), blog, or other marketing material, directly influence how authentic and credible you appear to your audience. When a digital consumer is looking at any type of content associated with your business, visual imagery used throughout your marketing speaks louder than words.

The challenge that many businesses like yours face is finding stock photography that is not stock photography. By this, we mean stock images that don’t look like something you pulled from the same stock photo site that everyone else is using. The thing to remember about stock photography is that anyone can have access to it, and that means it’s exponentially harder to find images that help you stand out as unique and creative. If you’re looking for to really step outside the box with a few oddball photos, read this great article on finding the weird stock photos. Another option is in the stupid stock photos that perhaps others deem unsuitable for professional use, but you know better. 

Quality is another factor that adds to the issue. Depending on where you source your stock photography, there can be an incredible range of quality – from high quality, professional-looking images to those that look like they were snapped by a 5-year-old from their parent’s phone. Of course, savvy businesses are going to opt for the higher quality images, which leads to a ton of repetitiveness in the images chosen.

This leads many, including you, to begin wondering if there’s even such a thing as creative stock photography. It’s a valid question and one that many think they already have the answer to. It seems that all stock images share similar themes, or that the models all wear the same expressions, making it difficult to tell one image apart from the other – even if they’re actually quite different.

Fortunately, what was just described is a previous era of stock photography. Today, there are not only great resources for unique stock photography, but the focus of the stock image artist has changed. Many of them are no longer looking to fill the standard commercial niche. They understand the value of originality and realism in their work and strive to bring images to the plate that meet the expectations of a more discerning audience.

Today, it’s easier to find collections that are trendy, relevant, carry marketing value, and above all else – are unique. There are photographers out there filling the “not stock” niche by continually producing images that fall outside of the stock mould. Accessing them is all about knowing where to look for images that can be classified as “not stock photography”.

Knowing Where To Look for Quality Images That Are Not Stock Photography

Woman stretches thumb up from driving car on country road
Copyright 2019 nanihta / Photocase, all rights reserved.

Let us guess, you’ve done a little browsing of the Internet on your own and have come up with a handful of stock image sites that you’re reasonably pleased with. We’re not going to argue that there are a handful of photo sites out there that exceed expectations and know-how to deliver the goods when it comes to quality stock photography.

What we are willing to say about some of those sites is where they exceed expectations in terms of quality, depth of selection, and price, they lack in uniqueness. By this, we mean there are some common themes among many of these sites, and at the end of the day, all the images tend to start blending together. You want to stand out and set your brand apart, so something like this just isn’t going to do.

This has prompted a few sites to emerge that promote themselves as being the antithesis of stock photography. The idea is that anyone who subscribes has continual access to new, engaging images that are unlike anything else that can be found on stock photo sites.

This is a great concept.

You might be familiar with sites like Death to Stock that work along with the very premise we just mentioned. The only downfall to some of these sites is their focus on uniqueness limits their selection. For businesses that have growing photography needs, some of these sites can be a little limiting in what they offer.

Is there a perfect compromise between cheesy stock photography sites and elitist not stock photography suppliers? We think so and would like to suggest Photocase as the perfect fit. Photocase features an extensive library of curated images that are all nicely categorized into themes that make browsing easy.

Photocase1 1 e1567618926677 > Where You Can Find Great Images That Are Not Stock Photography

What makes Photocase a top alternative to not stock photography sites is their focus on images that are fresh, authentic, and ooze real-life emotions. These photos are perfect for branding on Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms. You can learn more about Photocase by reading our full review of their top-notch agency.

As mentioned, quantity is something that sets Photocase apart. That’s not to say they’ve sacrificed quality for quantity because they haven’t. But the depth of their selection provides their customers with the opportunity for a higher level of creative freedom. The size of their collection also means they can offer unique images at an affordable value. Read more about what sets Photocase apart from some of the other stock image platforms as top resource businesses. You can also take advantage of this offer for 5 free credits + 10% off from Photocase.

7 Reasons to Avoid Cliché Images in Favor of Not Stock Photography

Girl with hijabi taking selfie with Dutch fan
Copyright 2019 APIMerah / Photocase, all rights reserved.

If you’ve spent any amount of time perusing stock image sites, you know there are definitely some images that stand out in the crowd and might even seem perfectly aligned with the message you want to deliver with your content. The question you’re asking yourself is probably “why not use stock photography on your website?”.

By now, you should have an idea of what separates standard stock photography from not stock photography but in case you need it spelt out a little more clearly, here are a few of the reasons why you should avoid standard stock photography like the plague.

  • Zero originality. So many stock images have a been there, done that feel to them. You don’t want the image of flat, lifeless, and overused associated with your brand.
  • An awkward fit. There are stock images that “almost” fit what you’re looking for but fall short of encompassing your true brand identity. It’s like wearing a bad fitting jacket to an interview.
  • Too vague. Standard stock images are designed for an appeal to a broad audience. Because of this, they’re often too vague to hold any real value.
  • Familiar faces. Have you noticed that so much stock photography features the same models over and over? Yeah, so has your audience, and they’ll smell your weak attempts at originality a mile away.
  • Mistaken brand identity. If a customer recognizes an image from multiple sites, the chance of them blending those businesses together in their mind increases. Plus, if an image conveys one message on your site and a completely different message on another, it can lead to brand confusion.
  • Insincerity. There’s no shortage of stock photography that features individuals of various cultural and ethnic backgrounds. The problem is these images often feel staged and forced, rather than natural. This can make your brand feel insincere.

Finally, the most important reason you should avoid standard stock photography is simply that you can. Why risk any of the above downfalls when you can find beautiful, relevant, and unique stock images on sites like Photocase. To get a better idea of what we’re talking about here, visit Photocase to browse a few of the images and see for yourself.

What To Look For In Unique Not Stock Photography

Paper boat on the high seas, clouds on the horizon
Copyright 2019 complize / Photocase, all rights reserved.

Now that we’ve covered why you should avoid the standard stock photo, it seems like a good time to dig a little deeper into what makes for an exceptional image that falls into the not stock photography category.

First, the golden rule of choosing unique not stock photography is to avoid including an image just for the sake of using it. It might be that an incredible image catches your eye, and you can’t break yourself away from the power it exudes. Well, this is great but if it isn’t aligned with your content, then you’re going to leave your audience scratching their heads, rather than being wowed by your artistic eye. And that's not exactly a marketer’s goal.

Start with an idea of what you’re looking for. What type of message do you want to convey, what type of image is going to contribute to developing that image, and help connect you with your audience? These are your important starting points.

Next, with those basics out of the way, here are few pointers for helping you identify unique not stock photography that will perform in every way you need it to. After you browse this list, you can also check out our guide on how to choose and download the best visual content for your marketing needs.

  • Never compromise on quality. Each image you choose should be clean and crisp, with all the vital elements in clear focus.
  • Focus on individuality. Does an image look like something you’ve seen before? If so, skip it. If you can’t remember, then still skip it because it means there’s nothing memorable or individually striking about the photograph.
  • Mirror your audience. If there are people in your stock photography, ensure they mirror the audience you want to reach, including main demographics, along with other details like style, hobbies, and attitude. This should be a key focus in your branding strategy.
  • Tell a story. Does the image tell the story of your text, even if the viewer never scrolls past the first paragraph? The idea is to use imagery as a teaser for the content you’re providing.
  • Focus on realism. Do the subjects in the image look natural? It’s easy to spot a posed, unrealistic image a mile away. Look for images that convey emotions and scenarios your audience can relate to.
  • Be consistent. If you’re using multiple images on your website, in marketing material, or in your social media content, it’s so important to keep consistency in mind. This means consistency in the type of image and concept, but also in quality and the use of color.
  • Remember that color matters. Black and white is fine for some occasions but where color is concerned, look for richly defined, contrasting colors that pop and catch the audience’s attention.
  • Before you get your heart set on an image, you should always take the time to do a little background work. A simple Google image search will tell you whether this image can be found on numerous stock photography sites – which means there’s a greater chance it’s already overused. You’ll also want to research the licensing and whether it’s appropriate for how you plan on using the image. Without this step, you could find yourself in some seriously unpleasant hot water.

A Word About Legalities and Ethics Regarding Not Stock Photography

Man swings on scooter, legs whirl through the air
Copyright 2019 kallejipp / Photocase, all rights reserved.

It’s important to touch on the topic of legalities and ethics. You know those free stock photo sites you visit, the ones with no attribution, free for commercial use licenses? There are a few reasons you should think twice before using them. They’re overused and often lacking real quality. But, that aside, there’s another issue to consider – whether it’s both legal and ethical to use these images in your project.

True, they might have licensing associated with them that leads one to believe they’re in the free and clear from a legal standpoint. Unfortunately, and this seems to be more of an issue with free stock image sites, you can’t be entirely sure that the subject of the images have given their permission for their likeness to be used. It’s easy enough for a designer or photographer to snap a picture and upload onto one of these sites, but quite another to ensure they’ve covered all their bases as far as permissions are concerned.

Permission for subjects isn’t where the legal issues end with some stock images. Does the image contain a brand name product that can be clearly identified by it’s logo or other likeness? Does the image contain a well-known monument or sightseeing location? In both these cases, there can be trademark and other licensing issues that haven’t been addressed. Trust that a big brand name isn’t going to be keen on letting just anyone use their likeness, especially when they don’t know the context it’s being used in.

Claiming that an image had all the proper licensing will only get you so far. As the person who is purchasing and publishing the image, you carry a certain amount of responsibility for ensuring all the legal guidelines are adhered to. Your best bet for this is to work with a reputable supplier of images who isn’t just out to source as many stock photos as possible to pad their library. It takes time and effort to curate a high quality, properly licensed collection.

That said, even if you can legally use a stock image, the question about ethic remains. If it feels like you’re getting away with something, or skirting around a legal technicality, put the image down and run for the hills. In an age when word spreads around the Internet in a blink of an eye, the last thing you want is to have your brand associated with a scandal or ethical issue.

Choosing Not Stock Photos for Your Project

If there’s one truth you already know, it’s that your business and your reputation are way too important to tarnish with bad stock photography. Trust there are refreshing, relevant, and unique images out there that are not bad stock photography – and you don’t even need to discover some obscure source to work with them. Photocase has the selection of quality, unique images you need for all your business and marketing needs. Stop what you’re doing, and spend a few minutes browsing the Photocase collection. We promise it won’t take more than a minute or two before you understand exactly what we mean.

Ivanna Attié
Ivanna Attié

I am Content Manager, Researcher, and Author in StockPhotoSecrets.com and Stock Photo Press and its many stock media-oriented publications. I am a passionate communicator with a love for visual imagery and an inexhaustible thirst for knowledge. Lucky enough to enter the wonderful world of stock photography working side-by-side with experienced experts, I am happy to share my research, insights, and advice about image licensing, stock photography offers, and the stock media industry with everyone in the creative community. My background is in Communication and Journalism, and I also love literature and performing arts.

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