This blog is a comparison of stock images versus original custom images in creative digital marketing campaigns.

From organic social media to an e-commerce website, all elements of a digital product or campaign must be working together to create a cohesive brand image and support the overall marketing objective.

Image assets impact the overall look and feel of a campaign. This blog takes a deeper dive into the use of images within social media, specifically.

Social Media

The name of the (organic social media) game is brand awareness. Developing that recognizable and cohesive brand includes the visual language of photography. Not to mention, the decidedly visual nature of social media platforms, such as Instagram, demands high-quality visual content.

But feeding the social media beast is an ongoing task, so here are some things to consider when determining what kind of visuals to develop for your branded social channels and corresponding social ads.

Behind-the-scenes at a GMD social media photo shoot for one of our clients.

Benefits of Original Photography

Authenticity, Transparency and Brand Trust

Connecting with an audience through social media means fostering a relationship of trust. Showing original images of things like products, offerings, team members, behind the scenes and past projects gives users an approachable window into the business, and an opportunity to begin building that loyalty through authentic content (and messaging, but that’s for another blog).

Also, keep in mind that not every photo needs to be professionally shot. A great deal of authenticity can be revealed through content shot on the standard-issue iPhone. GMD’s very own Creative Director, Robert, has put together some of his best tips and tricks for successful mobile photography here.

Elevated Brand Image

Take your business to the next level with original photography content. This is not to say that well-selected stock photos shouldn’t be used, but a thoughtful photoshoot ups the image ante for the brand overall. This allows your business to compete in the marketplace, and the benefits reach far beyond social strategy.


Not only will social content and ads be flawlessly cohesive, but original photography can be used to create a consistent visual language across all digital touchpoints. Plus, working with a photographer and art director allows for full control over the photos, tailored to the brand and campaign.

Bonus Tip: Be sure to ask about the number of image deliverables included with a social-specific photoshoot. For example, 10 retouched images are great, but they won’t go very far in terms of organic content.

How to Use Stock Photos Successfully

Sometimes original images are not a possibility—don’t sweat it. Here are some tips and tricks to integrate stock photos seamlessly into a social media strategy.


Stock images are a great base resource that is full of possibilities. Consider adding branded elements, like a quote in the brand font and colour, or a tastefully placed logo and image frame. Perhaps a close crop or a filter can be applied? The addition of a product image into a lifestyle shot is also a clever move, through Photoshop (for those who are Adobe-inclined) or via an app like Canva Pro.


Be mindful of the collection of images that are being selected. Do they have consistent tone and colouring? What about photography style and subjects? All of the images used should be able to sit next to each other and appear to flow rather than clash.

Mind the Details

Social media users are savvy, and no detail goes unnoticed. For example, what street sign is in the background of the photo? Does the image show an out-of-date iPhone in the frame? Perhaps the leaves on the trees are orange while talking about a summer campaign. A second (and third) set of eyes can be helpful to pick up these nuances.

Ready to give us a shot? Get in touch with the GMD team to chat about social media, photography and social media photography.