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How do you choose the right image for your next healthcare marketing campaign?

It’s a deceptively simple question with a multitude of answers. There’s no single way to portray healthcare; depending on the intention of the campaign, your healthcare photography might focus on state-of-the-art technology, an expert team of physicians or positive patient outcomes. Once you find your subject, you’ll need a photo that matches the emotion and benefits you’re trying to convey, and this image can be sourced from one of two places: healthcare stock photography or your own professional photography.

Before we dive into the pros and cons, we note that having a library of professional photography is generally preferable to stock photography – but we also recognize that it’s not always the most convenient option. Logistics, budget and location are some of the main speedbumps that get in the way of acquiring top-notch professional photos. That said, stock photos aren’t a cure-all for healthcare photography – there are very specific rules and regulations that come with using stock photography. To make sure you get the most return on investment on your healthcare photography, here are three points to consider before you “stock-up” on healthcare stock photography.

  1. You Get What You Pay For

This may sound obvious, but the best stock photography is rarely ever free. While there are free stock photography services out there, they are rarely ever equipped with the same diverse, high-res photo selection that you can find using paid services. Getty Images and Shutterstock are popular stock photography services that provide access to an abundance of photography and video, in varying sizes and formats, for a monthly fee. Adding 150,000 new images to its library every day, Shutterstock offers a constant supply of fresh photography that spans an array of categories. Ideal for businesses large and small, Shutterstock pricing is broken out according to the type of user (individual or multiple) and the number of downloads per month. Home to the world’s largest visual archive, Getty Images offers the full spectrum of royalty-free images, videos and editorial content. This photo service organizes pricing in packages that vary according to size: A 10-pack of large images, 4K videos and HD videos is $425 per download, a 10-pack of medium images and SD videos is $300 per download and a 10-pack of small images and web videos will cost you $150 per download.

  1. Royalty Free Does Not Mean Free of Charge

Before you start your stock photography journey, we recommend getting acquainted with some key vocabulary because there is a lot of legal jargon to navigate. First and foremost, it is important to note that, if you plan on using stock photography for commercial purposes, that is, “to sell a product, raise money, or promote or endorse,” you need to purchase a license. These licenses typically fall into three categories: royalty-free (RF), rights-managed (RM) and rights-ready (RR). Once you purchase an RF license, those files can be used again and again in the medium of your choice within the timeframe dictated by the contract. RF images provide the most creative flexibility of the licensing options and they have the longest shelf-life. RM and RR licenses typically come with more restrictions and can only be used in certain instances, like within certain geographic locations or timeframes. If you are not planning on using the image for commercial purposes, you can use certain stock images without licensing. Getty Images, for example, allows users to embed photos for free onto a website or blog as long as you comply with their Terms of Use.

  1. It’s Nothing Personal

One of the main criticisms of stock photography is that it lacks individuality and unique appeal. This shouldn’t come as a surprise – the definition of “stock” literally means “of the common or ordinary type.” If you are designing an advertisement that focuses on a niche subject, like a specific form of technology, a specific hospital’s interior or a local doctor, you aren’t going to find that one-of-a-kind photo on a stock photo website. Stock photography is better used for collateral with a more generalized focus that conveys a high-level idea. The more specific your needs, the higher likelihood that you will need to invest in your own professional photography. With stock photography, you only have what is made available to you and this leaves very little room for customization. So, if you’re searching for that perfect angle or that one-in-a-million shot, taking your own photos is probably the better option.

What kind of photography should your healthcare brand use in its next marketing project? Well, as we just learned, the answer isn’t always simple. There are a wide range of elements to consider before deciding between stock photography and your own professional photography, including budget, type of media, design and the advertisement’s overarching theme. So, next time you need photography, revisit this list and ask, “Is it worth it to ‘stock up’ on stock photography?”

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Founded in 1972

As Orange County’s longest-standing, privately held response marketing agency, we have witnessed dynamic shifts in the world of marketing. Through it all, we have ensured our clients stay at the forefront of communication and technology, driving response and value with every new endeavor.