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Stock Photos vs. Original Photos: Can’t We Use Both?

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Stock photography is immensely popular. You can use stock photos in your own portfolio, in commercials, and in personal projects.

But how much stock photo usage is too much? When should you use your own photos?

Why You Should Use Both Stock Photos and Original Photos

a girl in floral dress taking a photo with a film camera

Stock photos and original photos are both valuable. If you stick to only one, you’ll end up limiting the potential of your business, blog, etc.

You should use both stock and original photos to enhance your business model. When you take photos of your own, you improve your photography skills. When you use stock, you give yourself more opportunities to express yourself.

Of course, you might need more stock photos than original ones, or vice versa. Regardless, it’s usually a good idea to use both.

Keep in mind that you don’t always need to invest thousands of dollars in stock photos. There are many websites with free stock photos that you can use for commercial purposes.

A few examples are Pexels and Unsplash. Make sure you familiarise yourself with the rules on each website. This will help you avoid using pictures illegally.

When to Use Stock Photos and When to Create Original Work

Use Stock Photos to Elevate Your Photography

a conceptual double exposure of a female model
The example above is a double exposure photograph. It consists of three pictures. I merged them to create a conceptual piece that symbolises duality and reinvention. The portraits are original photos, and the aerial photo of a beach is a stock image.

If you’re a photographer or designer, it’s likely that you use programs like Photoshop. Editing programs are a great way to take marketing campaigns, conceptual photos, etc., to the next level.

This isn’t always possible without some extra help.

The aerial photo was important to me because it helped me express myself. Since I’m not an aerial photographer and don’t own a drone, using a stock photo was the best option for me.

You can call this stock photo collaboration. Combining original work with other people’s images is a great way to:

  • improve your design skills,
  • get something done if you have a tight deadline,
  • get better at collaborating with other people’s designs.

Before You Use a Stock Photo, Ask Yourself If You Can Take a Similar Photo

a laptop opened on a stock photography websiteThere are millions of high-quality stock photos out there. This access to all kinds of images can be a great disadvantage if you’re a budding photographer.

It’s easy to get lost in the stock photography world and forget about your own skills.

When you look for stock photos to use, make sure they’re images that you couldn’t have taken on your own, even if you tried. If they feature simple objects in simple places, it’s likely that you could take similar photos yourself.

Of course, deadlines and time limits are an important factor here. If you have enough time to have a photoshoot of your own, go out and improve your photography skills.

If you’re not a professional photographer, you can use this as an opportunity to become a better photo-taker. This will prevent you from becoming a stock photography hoarder!

Use Original Photos When You Want to Tell a Personal Story to Create a Deeper Connection With Your Audience

a self portrait of a female photographer
Stock photography will never give you the opportunity to show your own face. If it’s appropriate, post self-portraits to give your business a face or to simply introduce yourself. Self-portraits make people more relatable.

If you post a stock photo with a personal story, your audience might not be able to relate to it well.

The reason is that stock photos are easy to detect. Many of them have specific lighting and expressions that can easily put people off. Some stock photos are so popular that almost anyone will be able to recognise them.

All these things can take the attention away from your story.

To create a deep connection with people, use original photos. You don’t need to be a professional photographer with expensive equipment. Take photos from the heart. You might discover that more people will want to connect with your work because of it.

Use Stock Photos in Campaigns and Marketing Projects to Save Money

a laptop opened on a stock photography website

Many people use stock photos in campaigns, commercial projects, and advertisements. There’s a lot you can do with even a few high-quality images.

The right stock photo can describe your company and its values. This isn’t always something you can achieve with original photos. It might be due to a limited budget or time constraints.

Stock photos tend to be much cheaper than a professional photoshoot. If possible, you should hire a photographer to create exclusive photos for your company. This might make it easier for you to get your point across, but it’s not always necessary.

Credit the Original Owner If You Post a Stock Photo on Social Media to Avoid Confusion

conceptual photo of a man holding a light bulb filled will fairy lights

Credit isn’t always necessary, especially if you paid for a stock photo. But it’s important to let your followers know which photos aren’t yours.

This applies to those who have a platform where they share both personal photos and stock photos.

If you post all kinds of images, your followers might think that they all belong to you. This might confuse people. It might make it seem like you’re claiming to be the owner of someone else’s photo, and create a lack of trust.

To avoid this, make sure you always credit the owners of stock pictures.

You don’t need to tag them, even though that’s always appreciated. You can state that the image isn’t yours. This is a simple but easy way to build trust and avoid confusion in your community.

Common Stock Photography Questions

Why You Shouldn’t Use Stock Photos

Stock photos can be valuable, but they do have limits that can have a negative effect on your work. You shouldn’t use stock photos if you can take similar photos of your own.

You also shouldn’t use stock photos in your own photography portfolio. That could confuse visitors.

What to Use Instead of Stock Photos

You can take your own photos and improve your photography skills. If you have good drawing skills, you can make original illustrations for your blog.

If you have friends who take photos, you can ask them to take exclusive photos for you.


There’s a lot you can do with both your own pictures and stock photography. There’s nothing wrong with using both in your work.

You can make the most of your business, blog, or anything else that you’re passionate about pursuing. Just remember to use stock and original photos wisely!

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