Christmas stock photo imagery

Without question, Christmas is the most demanding time of year for marketers. Whether it’s festive print brochures or social media campaigns, we’re clamouring to find that perfect visual brand sentiment.

What's more, we’re battling with time. Staff holidays, sickness and increased customer demand are all constraints on our precious minutes and, as a result, we’re finding new ways to fast-track marketing campaigns. One of these is stock imagery, whose demand skyrockets at Christmas. 

According to, ‘Christmas’ is the most searched for stock imagery keyword. Naturally, it’s closely followed by other holidays such as Halloween and Thanksgiving. The question is – in an age where we strive to be individual, why are we all using the same sources?

So, let's dig into the pros and cons of stock imagery, and what you can be doing to create unique imagery for your campaigns. 


- A charming stock image that made us smile

The pros of using stock imagery

Cost efficiency

The average stock photo price can be anywhere from as little as $0.49 (£0.38) to $9.16 (£7.09). Bearing in mind that we buy the intellectual property rights every time we buy a photo, this guarantees longevity. One image can be edited and scaled for multiple campaigns. What’s more, sites such as Unsplash offer myriad stock photos for free.

Saving time

If you want a truly professional finish, you’ll need to invest time. Searching for a photographer in itself is time-consuming, looking through portfolios and analysing testimonials. Once you’ve hired your photographer, there are branding and photography styles to consider. Then of course comes the shoot itself – how much of your day will be disrupted? Stock images are the simple solution for those short on time.


Stock images are the mastery of real, professional photographers who upload their content in high resolution. In some cases, you can download industry quality photos for free. All they ask as a courtesy is that you optionally credit the photographer. When you’re short on time, it’s reassuring to know there’s a whole world of accessible resources out there.


Let’s assume you have access to a designer. Your teams can customise images however they want, particularly borders or other decorative pieces. This Christmas tree branches on a plain background image was Adobe’s fifth most downloaded stock image of 2018. It’s easy to see why – it can be manipulated for social posts, Christmas cards or whatever the designer desires.


- The sort of stock image that can't be easily manipulated for social posts...

The dangers of using stock photography

Just like Christmas indulgences, stock photography should be used in moderation. Go overboard and you risk falling into the following traps.


How many times have you seen the generic ‘business meeting’ stock image? The same applies with Christmas imagery. Pick the first result every time, and chances are your clients will have seen it. This dilutes your brand and may even confuse your customers.


- We know we're guilty of using this stock office image

Lack of trust

According to, an image of a “real person”, rather than a generic stock photo, is 34% more likely to convert users. In the age of fake news and filtered realities, customers want authenticity.

Mixed messages

We all like to think we have a USP. But how can we claim we’re unique if we’re using the same imagery as everybody else? Worse still, if we’re using the same Christmas images as our competitors, all it takes is for your customers to find something they prefer elsewhere.

Knowing your rights

While strictly speaking, the intellectual property rights should be ours when buying a photo, it’s not always black and white. You’ll need to invest time into researching individual image rights. For example, some may only be available for editorial over commercial use, whereas others might be restricted by location.

If you’re not sure where to start with this, why not invest in Digital Asset Management (DAM) software? It helps you keep on top of licensing by tracking rights management, so no more fear of costly fines! It’s an amazing time saving piece of software which is now at the heart of thousands of companies across the world, so worth investigating.

When should you use a photographer?

If yours is an extremely niche product or service, an image of baubles won’t cut it. Your photographer is on-hand to provide creative concepts, no matter how aesthetically unpleasing your service may be. 

Let’s say you work in the energy industry. A professional photograph of your team hard at work, paired with the benefits of your brand (for example, an image of a family gazing at Christmas lights) gives a sentimental and unique feel. “Powering Britain this Christmas.” Simple, but effective.

Stock imagery versus photography

We get it. You might be short on time or funds – that’s why you need to be creative with your campaigns.

  • If you must use stock photography, never go for the first result. Use a Google reverse image search to see where and how often it’s been used before. 

  • Make it your own. Add your own fonts, logos and filters to make it vastly different from the original. This is great for Christmas cards. (See our post on Christmas card ideas too.)

  • Call in a photographer if you have the time and the budget. Plan for disruption to your day, and have creative concepts in mind before researching.

  • Mix up stock and professional photography. If you’ve used a photographer before, access your assets and add stock image overlays to get the best of both worlds.

  • Take this one step further with Shutterstock Custom. They offer a vast portfolio of top photographers, with whom you can connect and send your brief for a bespoke photo shoot.


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