Is Custom Stock Photography a Must-Have For Your Business?

There are many benefits of custom stock photography, but is it a must-have for your business? And how expensive is it, really? We're breaking down all the most important details of custom stock photography so you can make the smartest choice for your business and marketing budget.

What are custom stock photos?

Custom stock photography may sound like an oxymoron – if it’s custom, then how is it stock? But what it means is this: instead of browsing hundreds of thousands of images on your average stock photo site just to end up using the same image your competitor chose, custom photography gives you an original library you can use for all of your marketing purposes, making sure you are using the perfect image for every one of them. Every image is perfectly in line with your mission, aesthetics, brand colors and business. It's a valuable resource for visual branding. 

You may think that photographers are only hired by businesses to handle product photography, but in custom stock photography a professional photographer comes in and takes images that can be used for a variety of purposes: websites, email campaigns –if you work with email lists–, social media posts (for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), ads, blogs (not only bloggers have them), print materials and so much more. Intrigued? Keep reading to learn whether this is a must-have for your business.

What are the benefits of custom stock photography?

  1. Perfect brand photography in high resolution
  2. Hours of time saved in completing marketing campaigns
  3. Unique, original photos for any marketing material
  4. A personal touch that appeases potential clients
  5. Cohesive feel across all marketing platforms, from your website and blog to your social media and print ads

Related: How to waste less time looking for stock photos

Imagery is such a relevant element in marketing and branding that the uses for custom photos are endless. If you've been focusing solely on product images and mock-ups, time to wise up! You need pictures constantly and for everything in your business. From web design for your site to your latest blog post, from the ad, you placed on the side of buses to the last social media image you pushed to your Instagram feed.

Stock photo sites are a great aid in sourcing photos for these purposes, and custom stock imagery is even more specific, but without the expense and hassle of hiring a professional photographer directly.

Smiling woman looks frontally into camera during pottery work
Copyright 2Design /, all rights reserved.

Who shouldn't invest in custom stock photography?

While there are many benefits to custom stock photography, it's not always a wise investment. Here are some reasons not to invest in custom stock photos:

You have a shoestring budget

“Custom” may make it sound like only huge companies like Coca-Cola or Microsoft could afford this kind of stock photography, but that’s simply untrue. There are several sources for custom stock photos suitable for small businesses, that you can reach out to for quotes to find a price point that works for you.

You don't have a style guide

Without a style guide, you could very well invest in a library of custom stock photos that, while great images, are just trendy without a long shelf-life or are completely off-brand. A style guide helps you discern what you like personally versus what your target customer or client would resonate with, to build up your brand story through visuals.

Bottom line: invest in a style guide before putting money into a library of custom stock images. A custom photo performs better than a generic stock photo only when it's carefully and cohesively selected.

Related: How to choose the perfect images for marketing and visual content

You aren't sure what you want

If you don't have a vision for a custom stock library, it isn't the right time to invest in one. Without a vision or direction of some kind, you may not be satisfied with the custom stock photos you receive.

Where can I get custom stock photos?

Man screams in the megaphone and jumps into the air
Copyright kallejipp / all rights reserved.

If you've decided it's time to invest in custom stock photos, you want to choose a reliable channel to purchase them through. The process can be overwhelming if you don't know where to begin looking for them.

Here are several known and trusted resources for custom stock photos to help you take the next best step for your business:

Shutterstock Studios – Custom Images from an Industry Leader

Shutterstock is one of the top names in the stock photography business, and you can partner with their best photographers to get quality, custom stock photos for your exclusive use.

shutterstock studios > Is Custom Stock Photography a Must-Have For Your Business?

Used by big names like Marvel, Mercedes-Benz, and Mastercard, Shutterstock Studios is a trusted source for custom royalty free images that reflect your brand's aesthetics and mission. Through their easy-to-use platform, you can plan out the perfect, on-brand content you want, from an initial idea to a polished visual campaign, effortlessly and at a realistic price. Shutterstock Studios' global network of industry-leading creators makes it easy for you to get what you need, wherever you need it from. This is an integral service for businesses to get brand visual material at scale, and it includes data-driven planning, custom stock photography, pre- and post-production assistance, among other perks.

Request a demo from Shutterstock Studios to learn more about pricing, or see these case studies to learn more about how Shutterstock can bring your brand to life.

Just out: Shutterstock AI is the agency's brand-new service for creatives and marketers, that uses AI technologies from leading providers to help you identify and download the best-performing images for your intended purpose across all subjects, mediums, and goals. Almost as good as custom stock photography!

Snapwire – Personalized Photos from Local Creatives

Logo Agency Snapwire

Snapwire hosts a community of over 700,000 creators worldwide. Used by top brands like Google, Hootsuite, and LinkedIn, their mission is to connect high-quality photographers with your business to produce beautiful stock imagery. The process works in three steps: you request images with details of what you want to be photographed, a photographer is assigned to bring your vision to life, and when the photo shoot is completed, you can download the stock image for your exclusive use.

Request a demo from Snapwire for pricing information, or check out their collections for examples of previous work.

The Luupe – Customized Images Created by Women for Everyone

luupethumb > Is Custom Stock Photography a Must-Have For Your Business?

The Luupe is a community of female photographers and content creators who develop work for commercial use. Their talent roster includes photographers who have previously worked for big names like Shutterstock, IBM, Starbucks and National Geographic. They specialize in creating affordable, diverse and authentic content to help brands connect with their audiences.

Get in touch with them for pricing information, or check out the simple process they implement to make it easy for you to get the images you need.

EyeEm – Tailored Images from Global Perspectives

Logo Agency EyeEm

EyeEm is an online community of photographers based around the world. Their goal is to create original, on-brand images to resonate with your potential customer. Trusted by brands like Canon and Converse, the creators at EyeEm deliver something non-traditional, funky and unique photos to their clients at an affordable price.

Learn more about personal photo shoots for your brand from EyeEm.

Are There Free Custom Images? 

The short answer is no, free stock photos won't do here. There are free stock photo sites such as Unsplash, Pexels or Pixabay where you can download free images, but they do not offer any way to get custom photography. It's just not possible when not charging for the artist's time.

The one real way to get custom free photos is to shoot them yourself, even using just your iPhone and real people from your social circle as models. But for this to be viable and successful, you need to know a lot about photography and graphic design.

So, is custom stock photography a necessity?

Custom photography is not a necessity if your marketing budget is minimal, if you don't have a style guide, or if you don't really have a vision for a custom stock photo library. It is totally okay not to be ready for this investment. Instead, check out these sources for unique stock photos that will better fit your budget for the time being. When your brand or business has grown enough for you to seriously consider custom stock photography, we'll be here with the best recommendations for you!

Custom stock photos may be necessary for your business if you have the budget, the vision, and you are ready to take your content to the next level visually. It is for small, mid-sized and large brands or businesses that are ready to differentiate themselves from the competition in a truly unique way.

Check out Shutterstock Custom for the truly original stock imagery that will make your brand or business memorable in the eyes of your audience.

Amos Struck
Amos Struck

I am a publisher and entrepreneur in the stock imagery field. I focus on providing knowledge and solutions for buyers, contributors and agencies, aiming at contributing to the growth and development of the industry. I am the founder and editor of Stock Photo Press, one of the largest networks of online magazines in the industry. I am the founder of Microstock Expo, the only conference dedicated to the microstock segment. I created several software solutions in stock photography like WordPress plugins. Plus I am a recurrent speaker at Photokina Official Stage, and an industry consultant at StockPhotoInsight. I am passionate about technology, marketing and visual imagery.

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