Should You Create Your Own Visuals, Buy Them, or Use Royalty-Free Images?

By the small business content developers at

Images add flair and an additional level of interest to your social media posts, on your website, in your newsletter, and with your marketing materials, but what are your best options for procuring visual assets? While the answer may depend in part on your budget, your main choices are in-house development, purchasing visuals, or using royalty-free images.

The fact is each option has its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages, and in some instances where one company might choose to pay for artwork rather than source it from a royalty-free collection, another similar company will choose to do the exact opposite. Here’s a quick rundown on the advantages and disadvantages of each option:

  • DIY Visuals

Unless you’re a professional photographer, graphic designer, or art director, there’s a chance that your homegrown visuals may look a bit rustic and unprofessional at times, but if your budget prevents you from other options, you are going to need to hone your skills in this area. On the other hand, if you try your hand at it and find that you are spinning your wheels and burning project hours, you may want to bite the bullet and hire a professional. There are costs to running a business, and beautiful visuals increase the chance of success for your posts, so they’re well worth the investment.

  • Custom Visuals

Hiring a graphic designer to design custom graphics and images may cost more, but it may also have a higher ROI. If you have a hotel, a spa, or sell hand-crafted items or artisanal offerings or otherwise offer an uncommon product or special experience, use custom visuals created for your exclusive use. You’ll build customer loyalty and excitement by making your one-of-a-kind mark.

  • Royalty-Free Visuals

Stock images can pack an effective punch when used correctly. They’re easy on the bottom line and simple to find. If you’re looking for strong visuals to illustrate almost any abstract concept, whether for your newsletter or social media post, it is difficult to go wrong with the use of stock or royalty-free images.

If you decide to use royalty-free visuals, the most important guideline is to use images that strengthen your brand identity. The only drawback to using royalty-free visuals is if you inadvertently use an image that is extremely popular or if a competitor has used the same visual, your audience may have an instant’s discomfort as they try to reconcile the repetition. However, this minor qualm should not discourage you inordinately if royalty-free images make the most sense for your brand identity and your budget.

Whichever option you choose, just make sure that visual graphics and photos are a part of your marketing efforts.

By Andrew Patricio

January 27, 2016