Photography plays an important part in your visual brand storytelling and it is a very powerful tool to engage your audience.

When choosing how to source photography, it is often time and money that plays a part. Brands need to weigh up the investment options and the brand strategy to find the right solution.

Commissioned photography carries a certain edge when it comes to brand building and adding a photographer to the creative team elevates the brand platform to deliver photography that is unique and bespoke. The downside is that it takes extra time and adds costs to the project budget.

Understandably, there are many ready-to-use sources of photography that deliver an instant result. When these images are not rights-managed, the big disadvantage is that the images are non-exclusive – meaning anyone, anywhere in the world (including your competitors) can use the same image too. Another problem is that stock photos can be seen as cheesy because they try and be all things to all people. Sometimes it is also hard to source a complete set of images that work cohesively across all your collateral as there will be different photographic styles, lighting, perspectives and so on.

Happily, creativity can solve most of these challenges and there is a lot that can be done to stock photography to make them more unique to your brand if you choose to go down that route.


Below are the main options for sourcing your photography and the pros and cons of each.

Free to use photos

There are now many sites such as Unsplash and Pexels where you can go and download high resolution images for free.

  • Pros: No budget required and you can experiment with high resolution images from the start.
  • Cons: No regulation on how and and where the images are used meaning a high risk to the uniqueness of your brand. Often only small ranges of style and subject options available and some images are not for commercial use but only suitable for editorials.

Royalty-free stock photos

The most common photography source for our clients is to use a royalty-free image bank such as Shutterstock, Adobe Stock or iStock.

  • Pros: Convenience, high-resolution, instant availability and a large selection of images that will fit well into a series – all for a low-budget. You are assured a proper use license that often includes unlimited use online alongside a high number of printed copies.
  • Cons: No regulation on how and and where the images are used meaning a risk to the uniqueness of your brand.

Rights-managed stock photos

The license for these images is based on how the image will be used – for example, in a brochure or on packaging – where (worldwide, local area) and how long for.

  • Pros: There are variable options for the photos to be exclusive to your brand for the duration of the license.
  • Cons: The complexity and restrictions can sometimes be mind-boggling. Costs can exceed commissioned photography, especially if you have to renew your licence.

Commissioned photography

Commissioning a photographer is the only option for photos that will be truly unique to your brand or you may need a creative solution that just isn’t available from pre-existing sources. It is of course essential for team and workplace photography and delivers true brand personality to your photography. It results in better storytelling as it is made for your exclusive purpose, creating the exact scenes and settings you want.

  • Pros: You get exactly what you want and build up your own library of photos that have a consistent style. It also opens up the opportunity to share the stories behind the images in a much more meaningful way.
  • Cons: Budgets and time – photoshoots have to be planned in advance and time needs to be added for post-shoot selection and final editing.

I hope this has outlined the main options and provided you with added insight when discussing photography for your brand and communication. As always, please contact us for any questions – we are here to help and have decades of experience in creating and sourcing brand photography.