3 Ways Stock Helps & Hurts Creatives

Think of stock as a building block or raw material. It’s not the thing. It’s just one of the key ingredients to what you’re cooking. It’s like Papa John says, “Better ingredients, better pizza.” The better your raw materials, the better your final product.

We all want to communicate effectively, and stock can play an important role. But beware, it can also do damage. Here are 3 ways stock can help:

1. Stock helps when you’re not a pro photographer
Have you ever had your breath taken away by a photo? This happens to me every day at [Lightstock](https://www.lightstock.com). I have the joy of viewing content from hundreds of artists – real pros – who have a gift for storytelling with a camera. Why not leverage their talent? Don’t just be a ‘freebie’ troll. Choose to be an artist advocate by paying for good work made well.

2. Stock helps fuel your imagination
I know this has happened to you. You come up with an idea that you’re sold on. You head off to hunt for resource material only to be incited in a new direction. A photo, video or illustration that you see gets you thinking about your concept in a new, and oftentimes, better way. This happens because viewing search results on a stock site gives you access to a mashup of creative content that acts as a caffeine hit to your imagination. Jean-Luc Godard sums it up well: “It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to.”

3. Stock helps because time is short
I had a boss who, when I would ask him when he needed the design concepts by, would invariably parrot, “yesterday”. That’s the reality. More times than not, projects are handed off to you with hours – not days – to complete. Maximize your time by using someone else’s. Yes it costs you money, but it saves you meaningful time and can easily multiply your effectiveness and capacity for work.

Here are three ways stock can hurt you:

1. When you misrepresent yourself using stock
There are no-no’s when using stock you probably already know of, but this one’s worth repeating. When highlighting real people within your organization, never use stock; make sure they’re personal images. The photo may not be as professional or powerful, but you’re being true to your identity and that’s more important. Don’t misrepresent.

2. When you make stock the main thing
Don’t just grab a photo or vector and slap some text on it. Just because you’re working with stock doesn’t mean your final work can’t or won’t be authentic. On the contrary, it should be. Always. Everything you design has a purpose behind it, so make sure your final product is true to that purpose.

3. When you choose cheesy stock
Stay away from the cheese! We both know that some stock sites will let anyone upload content – that should scare you. Avoid them. Look for places that believe in curation. Find a company that cares about providing quality to it customers and deals fairly with its contributors. Join the revolt against cheesy stock.

Feedback is the breakfast of champions. I’d love to hear yours. Find me on twitter at @joshdavidbailey.