The Possible Pitfalls of Stock Photos

Including visuals in your content, whether it is a website, email or a tweet helps convey your message and reach your target audience.

It goes without saying, we at ShoutEx recommend the use of visuals in content marketing, but we also warn that using stock images can be a double-edged sword.

While using content found on websites like iStock does allow you to quickly grab creative assets (including images, videos or sound clips) for your campaign, there is a cost to this convenience.

One problem can be an issue of representation.

At ShoutEx we believe that the positive reality of our clients speaks for itself, and using a stock image can sometimes misrepresent that.

Misrepresentation or a disconnect between what is shown and what is reality can lead to some serious marketing faux-pas.

A recent example of this would be the UK publication The Daily Mirror using the stock image of a young girl crying to create awareness for a fight against poverty campaign.


The image was on the front page of their April 16th edition from 2014.

A story that ran the same day in The Guardian however revealed that the photo was not taken in 2014, that the girl was not British and that the girl was not crying because she was hungry.

Rather the image was of an American girl, in 2009 whose mother took the photo of her daughter who was crying because she saw an earthworm.

Rather than promoting its cause, The Daily Mirror instead created controversy, criticism and worst of all, distrust in not only their cause but in the Daily Mirror name itself.

To avoid such distractions, I recommend carefully choosing the stock images that you use to be sure it matches up with reality.

Or, hire a photographer to create original content for you.

There are some real advantages to original content.

One guarantee is that the images you use on your website won’t be appearing anywhere else.


Notice how the above iStock image appears on the homepage for the websites for Global Edge Systems and Wireless Inc, The Leverage Planning Group  and Mejia & Associates amongst many others.

At ShoutEx we feel the investment in original images for your most important content can be worth a big payoff and save big headaches.

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Nick Seebruch

I am an External writer at ShoutEx. My interest lie in marketing, communications and journalism

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