Adams & Knight Marketing Blog
POSTED BY: Don Carter and Eric Panke

Be an original in a stock world


These days, with so many original photography budgets being slashed and just as many brands and agencies searching the same stock photo libraries, how can you still use visuals to capture attention, support your message, and provoke a reaction…and action? Is a picture still worth a thousand words? Or even better, a thousand views?

It can be…and there are five ways you can stand out in today’s world of stock sameness: 

1. Keep it real.
You know it when you see it. “It” being fake, artificial or staged scenarios. Your subconscious can just tell when a photo’s not authentic. So do whatever you can to keep everything and everyone feeling 100% natural. Instead of going into a shoot with a very specific, static, posed idea in mind, take a cue from the improv world and build yourself a looser box in which anything can happen. In this case, we let a pediatrician interact with a young patient just the way she normally does. And then, captured all the magical — and real — moments. 

2. Combine…and redefine.
Here’s a case where two wrongs actually can make a right. Instead of limiting yourself to a single, standard-issue stock photograph, is there a way to bring two or more together in a far more distinctive way? Sometimes, that can take the pressure off finding that one perfect picture. And in this case, it can help capture and empathize with the pain felt by people suffering from digestive discomfort — far better than a stock (or even original) photo of someone grimacing could.

3. Create your very own world.
Nobody said photography has to be used “as is.” If it’s not working the way you want it to, change it up…or build something from scratch. That’s what Photoshop is for — not to mention the many specialists who know how to use it and other easily accessible tools to create completely unique, imaginative and amazing things that aren’t going to look like anything else out there. For this series of print ads, we partnered with a visual effects artist to give our client a strong, gritty aesthetic that felt both unique and worthy of the brand and its attitude.

4. Set a mood. And stick with it.
One way to ensure you stand out is to make sure your communications and visuals have a consistent look, feel and mood that’s easy to spot across different platforms. It’s easy to fall back on the “well, this is all I could find from stock” excuse, but even then, is there a way to make different visuals come together more cohesively? Here, we wanted to amp up the confident, competitive attitude of the Connecticut Sun’s star players, so we shot them not in action but dramatically lit…in a way that showcased their drive and determination.

5. Evoke an emotion. 
As we tell clients, we turn emotion into motion. If you want to get your audience to act, you first have to get them to feel. And photography is one of the best ways to do that, whether you’re tugging on heartstrings or tickling the funnybone. Always look for a way to make your visuals not just attract eyeballs, but elicit a real human reaction that’s connected to the benefits you offer, not just features. This ad got a chuckle to get parents thinking about college savings.

With so many communications platforms calling out for visual content, it’s not easy to stand apart from everyone using the same, often clichéd photography resources. But with the starting points above, your brand can rise above the rest…and so can your results.

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Don Carter
Creative Director
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Eric Panke
Creative Director, Digital
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