Sticking Up for Stock Imagery

Wisconsin Lutheran State Teachers' Conference 2015

True fact. We designers are as highly opinionated as a house full of relatives gathering for holiday dinner. Of the many obtuse things we debate, stock imagery rates high. Let me assure you, at this very moment there are multiple “dis-cuss-ions” happening in design forums round the world as to whether or not reputable designers should use stock imagery.

Never one to bite my tongue, I’m going to boldly exclaim “why not use stock imagery?”

Then like any other non-committing diplomat, I’m going to say it depends on what stock imagery you use, how you use it and when. And I’m going to proudly validate my opinion with our recent program for the Wisconsin Lutheran State Teachers’ Conference.

But first, let me explain stock imagery.

Stock photo used for advertising in WLSTC program

Stock images are professionally created photos and vector images that are bought and sold online. They’re often used in advertising, as shown above. The level of professionalism varies, depending on how much you’re willing to pay and what type of licensing is offered. If used right, stock imagery can be an effective tool when it’s necessary to stay within a schedule and budget.

Like we do with the WLSTC program.

Each year I work with conference coordinator/wonderwoman Kris Snyder in producing collateral that’s reflects the mission of this highly professional event. The conference is attended by more than 1200 teachers, yet in order to keep registration costs to a minimum the committee maintains a conservative budget.

Use of custom photography in WLSTC program

In recent years, we’ve used custom photography for the registration and conference programs. These are real photos taken by schools within the district and donated for our use. Some of them are amateur; others are professional, as is this one by Gusto Photography. Either way, the photos are meaningful because they feature the very students taught by the conference attendees.

Stock vector image used in WLSTC program

And yet, on this year’s programs we used a Vectorstock image. Stock imagery!

Yes, I could have custom designed something equally well. Or, I could have hired an illustration specialist. Here’s the thing, good design takes time and time costs money. A wise project manager examines all aspects of the project; the timeframe, the budget and, of course, the use of the product. Since these programs were to be used only for the conference, purchasing a stock image was a better use of our resources.

Here’s where I justify my argument: Stock imagery doesn’t have to be a lesser quality of imagery. Nor must it be generic.

A good designer knows how to choose stock imagery and customize it to fit the project. For starters, we found a funky, cool image that communicates our message well. Then, because it’s a vector, I could take it apart and rebuild it for our needs. Lastly, I changed the colors to coordinate them with our theme.

So there you have it—my two cents, for whatever it’s worth. If you need help managing your project for maximum efficiency and effectiveness, give me a call.



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