An inside look at a photoshoot at Fulcrum Creatives.

The Value of Original Photography

Using photography to elevate your marketing and brand.

As a designer and photographer, I’m focused on creating cohesive, purpose-driven brands and content that rings true to their missions. My practice in both disciplines makes it easier to work with multiple mediums in mind from the start. As things change across business and within the photography industry, decisions for many companies on where to invest (specifically, within creative) are not that simple. Design thinking and strategy have risen in importance lately, but many clients choose to cut spending on custom photography in favor of stock photos.

There are plenty of reasons why this is bad for brands (not to mention photographers).

Ambiguity vs Relatability

Stock photography is, in essence, ambiguous. Because it’s all shot preemptively and made to be sold to as many people as possible, the goal is to visually convey an idea in a basic, straightforward manner. Stock photos are impersonal; models are picked and styled to resemble generic, anybody-people, and they avoid specificity and detail in favor of generalities and a more vague relevance. More often than not, they show diversity poorly, often conforming to stereotypes.

With so much visual stimulation constantly grabbing for our attention and so many brands and voices trying to sell us their ideas, products and stories — we’ve reached the point where vague subject matter isn’t cutting it anymore. People are increasingly picky about brands they’ll support — and yet they’re passionate about brands that share their ideology and values. People want brands that “get them” and good brands have already (or should be) focused in on that niche audience.

When you create your own content then, it doesn’t need to be hard to make it relevant to that audience — after all, you’ve spent a lot of time becoming the expert on them. It’s going to be more rewarding than that generic stock shot any day.

Photo styling for Making Midwest.

Brand Cohesion

Consistency across every touchpoint is key for a recognizable brand. People should have a similar experience and reaction when exploring your website, browsing your Instagram feed, or walking through a store. Photography and videography will be eye-catching and are typically what the viewer sees first. If you build your photo library as part of your brand, people may recognize your brand based on the photography alone.

Enter the stock photo. Not in the slightest visually consistent — each stock site pulls images from many photographers, each with their individual methods and direction. The biggest issue is that stock images are not exclusively yours once you buy them; you buy a license. The same one everyone else can buy. It looks terrible for someone to have seen the photo you posted somewhere else already, especially if you’re trying to hide the fact that it is stock. Now think about what other businesses might have used this photo for — chances are, it doesn’t exactly align with your intent or your brand.

On location in Hocking Hills for Dhana, Inc.

The Value is in the Details

Maintaining narrative control of a brand is only going to happen if you work with a photographer or shoot your images in-house. While you may find stock that represents a general theme, you won’t be able to tweak them to fit your message. This means breaking trends (yes, stock sites follow them, too) and building a collaborative relationship with your photographer or studio. Being practiced in their trade, they will have new ideas, techniques and compositional skills of their own. They’ll put a different spin on an idea, and when they’re in on the process from concept to production, much more interesting imagery will result.

Ready to elevate your brand and marketing with original photography? Send us a message.


Zach Wilke is a designer & photographer at Fulcrum Creatives. When he’s not behind the lens…he’s probably still behind the lens, or near any body of water or bike trail he can find. Infrequent (but quality) Instagram posts await @_wilke.