4 Great Alternatives to Stock Photos

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A necessary evil in your marketing arsenal. Cheesy, ubiquitous but seemingly essential. A quick fix that sometimes ruins the look of a page or the credibility of a post.

Ah, stock photos.

You probably don’t need to see proof to know how reviled they are — but you might have fun doing so anyway. A short-lived series at Huffington Post in 2011 hoped to “lampoon the unintentionally hilarious pictures we are exposed to everyday on websites, in advertisements, magazines, pamphlets and more”. 


 

Yet it’s their generic nature that makes stock photos so useful. Slap on a girl with a smile and she can be happy about anything from toothpaste to fire insurance. Show an old couple at the park, and one company could use them as poster septuagenarians for food supplements, while an opposing advocacy group could use them to illustrate the value of avoiding food supplements and just sticking to a good diet.

But as with all things that become mainstream, rebels have risen. These are photographers who believe we shouldn’t be assaulted by the mundane (and sometimes ridiculous). They think stock photos can be images that make people wonder and ponder; they can be beautiful or mysterious, or at least reach the level of professional ad agencies in terms of quality.

To these image rebels who give their photos away for free — but of course, accept donations and sometimes offer premium photo packages for a small fee — your cause is worthy. For marketers or entrepreneurs who are launching a content marketing campaign with a small team and budget, here are some of these rebels whose photographs can enhance your usual stock photo repertoire:

Gratisography

www.gratisography.com

Photographer: Ryan McGuire

License: Creative Commons Zero (no copyright restrictions)

Categories: Animals, Nature, Objects, People, Urban, Whimsical

Unsplash

Photographer: Various
License: Creative Commons Zero (or no copyright restrictions)
Frequency: 10 new photos every 10 days

Death to the Stock Photo

www.deathtothestockphoto.com
Photographer: Allie Lehman, David Sherry and freelance photographers
Frequency: One free photo pack per month; option for paid premium package with access to photo library of hundreds of images

Jay Mantri

www.jaymantri.com
Photographer: Jay Mantri
License: Creative Commons Zero (no copyright restrictions)
Frequency: 7 new photos every Thursday

Finding great alternatives to stock photos is another step toward becoming a smarter content marketer. But remember to take your own photos, too. If you don’t have an in-house photographer yet or don’t feel the need to hire one right now, work with freelance photographers. If you need pictures from around the world, work with offshore content marketing staff that have photography teams.

Lastly, remember what inbound marketing looks like? As you progress through your inbound marketing campaign and grow your online community, you can also curate photos from customers-turned-promoters or brand fans. You'll also need to develop a visual style that's in harmony with your company logo, writing voice and brand personality.

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