The impact of using authentic imagery on social media vs. using stock imagery

It’s clear that in this day and age, visual content is essential to any good, marketing strategy. Especially online, visual imagery captures the attention of the audience easier than any body of text can, and provides a simple way for businesses to sell their product to their consumers. Businesses can choose to use their own imagery of their products- or alternatively, plenty of stock imagery sites exist which contain thousands of high quality, professional photographs, available to download for free.

 It can be tempting for businesses to promote their organisation on social media sites using these stock images in order to make them appear more visually striking and aesthetically pleasing to potential customers. After all, let’s be honest; a professional photographer’s artistic photo of a pristinely presented plate of food is going to be better quality than a photo a business owner has quickly snapped on their iPhone before sending it out of the kitchen. It’s also super easy for busy business owners to just search online for a free, professional image of a product that they might happen to sell and pass it off as their own. So, yes, we can see why it might be tempting to use stock photos to promote your business online. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s free- and stock photos are artistic and high quality.


However, and it’s a big however – by presenting imagery to your potential customers of products that are quite clearly not your own can often leave customers questioning the credibility of the organisation as a whole. Why are they having to rely on false and glorified representations of their products, instead of showing us the real thing, right? When photos are too perfect looking, consumers often recognise that they’re not real and not representative of the brand’s real products, immediately making them feel that they can’t trust them. This case study proves that consumers favour real images as opposed to stock images by displaying the difference in click-through rates when comparing a generic stock image to a real, company photo.


Stock images also aren’t unique to your company’s brand. Although they might look glossy and professional looking, they aren’t representative of your business and could easily be used by your competitors too. Similarly, using a stock image could lead consumers to associate the image with a different organisation, as the photo isn’t solely reflective of your business. Think about it- you don’t want to help your competitors out, do you? Plus, it’s no good using photos in your marketing just because they’re pretty- they’ve got to do something for your brand.


Using real images humanizes your brand and allows consumers to make a connection to it. The real images also make the organisation seem credible and reputable, encouraging customers to place trust in the brand. This is proven in a case study looking into user-generated content within fashion websites. Two images were posted of the same product onto Facebook- one of a model wearing the product in a well lit studio with professional photography, and one of an Instagram user wearing the same product in her bedroom, taken on a normal camera. Results showed that theuser-generatedcontent image led to a conversion rate of 0.90%, compared to 0.31% for the professional model’s image. That’s three times better. Because using a real person wearing the real product allows consumers to see like minded people buying the product, which gives them peace of mind in regards to the quality and value of the product on offer.

By using authentic imagery, you can also be sure all your content will be relevant, as no matter how appealing a stock photo of a plate of spaghetti bolognese might look, it’s no use to your marketing strategy if your restaurant doesn’t have it on the menu. Seems obvious, right? But it’s a common mistake. Your visuals have to create realistic expectations and real representations of your products, otherwise, your consumers won’t believe it, they won’t trust it and they won’t be as likely to invest in it.


Using your own professional photographer can provide your organisation with the best of both worlds. Having excellent quality, arty photos of your own products means you have the same quality of stock imagery with the benefit of authenticity too!

Author: Lauren Watchorn