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  • Writer's pictureHavelock Staff

Bespoke photography or stock?

If you're setting up a website or redesigning your website, or even populating your blog, filling your social media with photography, or undergoing any number of other tasks for which you might find yourself in need of photographs, then there's one big question the faces you from the outset… Should I use stock images, or should I set up a photo shoot to create some bespoke imagery from my company.

There are, as always, benefits and drawbacks in both directions.

The sharp minded amongst you will spot that Havelock Photography is a bespoke photography company. So why are we talking about stock photography?

Silhouetted portrait of three men - by Havelock, Bristol's leading commercial photographers
Having bespoke photography has some huge advantages... one of them is that you or your staff can be in your photographs!

Why talk about stock photography??

We should probably be pretending stock photography doesn’t exist, right? Certainly it seems silly to be drawing your attention to it! But here’s the thing – Havelock Photography is a brand, and we are passionate about our brand having strong values. One of those values is openness and honesty. We are people with feelings and one feeling that we really, really don’t like is that of ripping people off.

If you put photography or any sort, with any set of parameters, into Google or any other search engine, the top results will often be stock photography sites – Shutterstock, Adobe, Pond5 etc. They are big, multi-million dollar companies who have money oozing from every pore, and they can afford to spend more on web advertising than we can ever hope to.

So stock photography exists, we can’t ignore it. We also feel very strongly that if stock photography is the right option for you then that is what you should go for. We don’t want to charge you good money, money which may well be in short supply, for a product which you could have got for a dollar from somewhere else. One day you’ll likely work it out, and you won’t think very highly of us. Similarly, we won’t think very highly of ourselves!

Multiple images of the same person, wearing Rollasole shoes - by Havelock, Bristol's leading commercial photography company
Bespoke photography can show off your staff, your business, your brand and your products! Stock photos can't do any of those things!

Stock photography is BAD

The good news is that we believe that in almost all cases, stock is not the best option, and for not a huge amount more money you can get bespoke business photography which will do a better job for your brand.

And here’s why…

Yes, stock photography is cheap… But it has many limitations. Bespoke photography is undoubtedly more expensive but comes with a raft of benefits over stock photography.

Let's start this with an open and frank discussion about the pros and cons of stock photography.

The landscape of stock photography and stock agencies has changed wildly in the last five years. Where once stock photography was almost, if not more, expensive than having photography created for you, nowadays there are so many stock photography libraries, and so many photographers submitting to them, that stock photography is cheaper than water.

On some subscription plans you can have access to vast libraries of stock photography for as little as $0.25 per image. If you're not buying in bulk than the price goes up rapidly, albeit only to one or two dollars per image.

We'll put our cards on the table… We can't compete with those kinds of prices. Our most cost-effective price-per-image package comes with some of our social media deals, where the price per image can be as low as a few pounds.

But, as we all know, the cheapest option is not always the best option. So here’s a rundown of the ins and outs of it all:



1. Readily available, no planning or photo shoot required, immediate download after sign up.

2. Low cost, especially if bought in large volume.

3. Usually fairly high quality images.


1. Images are not specific to your brand.

2. Whilst there are millions of stock images available, high quality, perfectly suited images can be hard to find.

3. High quality images can appear in multiple places around the Internet and become recognisable as stock images.

4. Copyright license is very specific, stock imagery is only available for certain uses.

5. Can feel impersonal - stock images usually look like stock images. It’s pretty obvious.

6. In a world where brand identity and authenticity are essential, stock images do nothing for your company.

Scuba diver with raging sea behind him - by Havelock
There is just no substitute for professionally shot brand images, unique to YOUR business and your brand



1. Photography is created specifically for your brand, to your specifications, exactly how you want it.

2. Guarantee of every image being high-quality.

3. Style, tone, models, location and details of the photoshoot are chosen by you.

4. Every image is completely unique and licensed exclusively to your company. It will never be seen anywhere else on the Internet, or on any other websites, magazines, communications, or marketing.

5. As these photos are being created from scratch there is literally no limit to what they can contain, you are not bound by what's already been shot and uploaded to a stock photography site, the world is your oyster!

6. Revisions. You can ask for revisions and tweaks to your photographs, you can't ask for revisions to stock.

7. The photo shoot. The photo shoot itself can be quite an event for your team, giving them an opportunity to be proud of the company that they work for, part of the brand, and part of the wider journey forwards.

8. Personalisation. Having bespoke photography on your website and marketing materials, which is clearly unique to your company and your brand, especially if it features your staff and your products, gives your website and marketing materials an edge over websites using stock photography.

9. A feeling of quality in your brand. As with all aspects of business, we are always trying to give customers a sense of value and quality, and having bespoke photography on your website gives your site and your brand an air of quality. The common misconception is that bespoke photography is not cheap, therefore if a customer can see that you have bespoke photography on your website, instead of stock photography, it will give your brand a much greater feeling of quality.


1. Expensive. There's no getting around this, bespoke photography is more expensive than stock photography. However, as explained above, if you go for the right package, dependent on your requirements, the actual price per image can get quite close.

2. Turnaround time. Bespoke commercial photography takes a little longer to deliver than stock photography. Stock is available right now on the Internet and can be downloaded and ready to use within minutes. For bespoke photography, you are likely to need a photoshoot, which can take time to plan. The quickest we would ever be likely to get images to you is probably 24 hours. Our guaranteed turnaround time is five working days after your photoshoot, although more often than not we will have first draft images to you within two days. So, whilst bespoke photography does take a little longer, a timeframe of one week from initial enquiry to photography delivery is not uncommon.

Savannah Knight portrait - by Havelock, Bristol's best portrait photographer
Bespoke photography can look however you want it, you're not constrained by what someone else has created!

[edit – WHAAAAAT?? You found more pros for bespoke???? SHOCKED! Seriously though, we truly believe what we’ve written above, and we think the argument is valid!]

Bespoke photography is 100% better for your brand

So there we have it, pros and cons in either direction. Clearly we are photographers, therefore we believe that the very best thing for your brand and your business is bespoke photography, tailored to your needs, and of the highest quality guaranteed.

However, we also acknowledge the fact that there is stock photography available, and some of it is very good. If you look hard enough you will even find images from Havelock Photography on various stock photography websites (but they won't be specific to your brand!)

(This is an interesting point to note at this stage, that payments to photographers really are pennies. And even if you're paying pounds or dollars for the images the photographer sees very very little of that. And this is getting worse and worse with every new image uploaded to a stock site - reported to be several million new images per day. So there is an ethical consideration, although we're not listing it as a con here because it seems a little self-serving.)

To sum all of this up, bespoke commercial photography is more expensive, but will, in almost all cases, do a better job in the long run for your brand. And… It really can be more cost effective than you would imagine.

So why not give us a call today and find out just how cost-effective bespoke website and marketing photography can be. We have packages available where the price per image can be almost as low as stock.

Give us a call, drop us an email, let's start a conversation. Get in touch with us by using the contact form here.

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