As the economy continues to recover I am continually encouraged as to the number of new clients and returning clients who are seeking our services — from new ad campaigns, websites, brochures and general marketing strategies. It’s exciting to once again be shaping some of Southwest Florida’s most prominent brands.

One of the issues that we run into when building these marketing tools is appropriating “good” photography and “stock” photography — the latter are those supplies of photos licensed for specific uses that some clients choose to purchase instead of hiring a professional photographer to shoot their subject. That’s usually because custom photography and other art can, in some instances, be a significant financial investment. It also requires an investment of time in planning, executing and following-through (though as a purist, this is definitely the direction we recommend).

Often times, when a client decides to use stock photography, the Agency turns to online stock houses like iStock or VEER. These are businesses that have thousands of photos in a range of categories that were shot by individuals who receive payment for their work. In these instances, there is a licensing agreement and use agreement, and buyers pay is based on the amount of potential exposure the art work will have, depending on whether it is used in a brochure, on the web, in ads, etc.

A frequent problem with stock images is that hundreds of other businesses may already be using them — including the competition! In some instances, the competition may be using the same photo in a negative way, which can dilute the positive connotation that a client has in mind. Therein lies the problem with brand identity.

Only a custom photo shoot can accurately capture and portray a business. Stock photography, on the other hand, is shot by a person who has an idea of a single image in mind — not a comprehensive strategy of what a specific business needs to properly build and maintain its image.

Another situation the Agency runs into is clients who find images on the Internet with the hopes of using it for their projects. Not! Photos and other artwork belong to someone who should be compensated for their property. If a business is not paying the owner of the artwork, there’s a good chance for copyright infringement. Then there are the photos that come our way via someone’s smartphone that is not properly set up to take high-resolution images. Although some of these shots are worthy of publication, generally few make the cut.

Bottom Line? To build, maintain or evolve your brand, my advice is to go with the images that truly represent what your company stands for and what it “looks” like to your target audiences. That means a custom photo shoot where an ad agency’s expert art director oversees the entire project from planning to execution and beyond. A good agency will find the most efficient and effective strategy to make it worth your time and investment.

Christopher “The BrandMan” Spiro doled out this free advice about the highest and best use of photography while at his new adjustable standing desk complete with high-top table chair. Hit him up: 239.481.5511,, and