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The top stock photography suppliers

In an ideal world, with ideal clients, you’d have a decent budget, a reasonable time-scale, up-to-date legal rights approvals and disclaimers, an experienced camera operator, a location producer, lighting equipment, post editing software…. all to create original, bespoke imagery and video. For the rest of us mere mortals, however, sometimes you’re going to have to rely on companies that have done it before. Stock photography is practical, can be economical, but often comes with the stigma of being much copied and, well, just too generic.

Here at Dynamo, whilst we have a number of expert photographers and videographers to hand, we also with clients work with Stock photography. The trick is, to make sure you’re using a supplier with galleries that don’t look like, well, stock photography….

The original intention for this review was to look at a well-known stock photography supplier and as I’ve done previously give a breakdown on its benefits and drawbacks, what it does better than the rest and what it could do better. However, the more I delved into its mechanics, the harder it became to be critical. The functionality of the website was great, the problem I found was that the product was lacking. We’ve been using stock photography here for the last year to support our clients social offering and create more engaging content. The problem is finding good stock photography at a price that is affordable. The household names that we all know, Shutterstock, iStock, Unsplash were either too “stocky”, too expensive or their UX was just a nightmare. So with that in mind, I thought I’d look for a selection of the best stock photography services that offered images that didn’t look like they belonged in a Littlewoods catalogue.

Competitive set

In the last six months we’ve looked at lot of stock photography providers that have claimed to feature authentic imagery that suits every mood. But in reality, most images look exactly as you’d expect them to, vacant stares and glowing smiles, lens flare and hackneyed cliches. Not all business people shake hands on the 43rd floor. Not all seniors have perfect teeth and well manicured gardens! We’ve found three sites that we feel have a unique offering that can be used on all social media platforms. Images that look and feel both natural, visually engaging but also (and probably most importantly) won’t cost the earth and offer an alternative option for agencies that haven’t the budget for a full catalogue of images but still want their content to stand out from the crowd.

What this tool does

First up, Negative Space
When we first found Negative Space we were intrigued. It had all the functionality of the big players in the field but images were available to download for free. So far so good, we thought. However, as we spent a little bit longer the early promise that the site showed dissipated as the pool of top-quality images dwindled. Whilst you get what you pay for, Negative Space is probably the best “free site” we looked at, there was just something lacking in what was on offer. If you absolutely have no budget for images, Negative Space is a great tool to have at your disposal, but you may quickly find that your images will become tired pretty quickly.

Next up, Death To The Stock Photo
Death To The Stock Photo is an interesting proposition as it’s presents itself almost like the Blue Apron of photography. By signing up you gain access to its exclusive library of over 2,000 images, which seems quite small, but the quality of images is superb. Everything looks well curated and the standard is very high. On top of that catalogue, every month it sends you a photo pack of between 25-30 images, with a story from the artist and background of the shoot. It’s an interesting concept but its drawback is that you’d have to shape your own content to suit the image. At $35 a month it represents a good source of top quality content at an affordable price.

Finally, Twenty20
Twenty20 is our final pick and we’ve saved the best for last. As soon as you land on its page you get a clear feeling that it knows what you are there for. Images are split into popular categories that will resonate with social content planners. All photos are well composed, have great colours and detail, but most importantly they feel REAL. Models aren’t “models”, settings are natural and easily relatable and everything feels like it is properly curated. The categorisation of images mean that you rarely need to do a specific search, the topics are there for you to delve into.

Price as reviewed

Prices for each vary, with each outlet having various packages to suit differing budgets. We found the best value to be Twenty20’s package of $149 per month for 20 images, which when you look at what you have available to you, and how many assets the average monthly content plan needs should be more than adequate. Other packages are available too.

Star rating (out of 5)

Whilst we found each outlet to have features that we enjoyed, we’re giving five starts to Twenty20. Its range of photos, the simplicity of its website and competitive pricing made it the standout candidate.

Stock photography needn’t be as boring as the name suggests. Finding great photography, that supports content creators and photographers should be the main aim. Avoiding clichéd images to labour tired points on social media should never be acceptable. When a client says we don’t have budget for images to support this content, hopefully these alternative options will help you convince them that for their content to stand out, investing in the image is just as important as spending time working on the copy.

Written by David Macnamara, digital PR lead at agency Dynamo PR

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