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Alternatives to stock photography.

Alternatives to Stock Photography

For many senior living communities, stock photography can provide a convenient, relatively inexpensive alternative to hiring a professional photographer for an on-campus shoot.

However, using stock photos comes with some potential pitfalls. Despite the vast number of choices in stock photography, it’s not the right fit for every situation. While you may find lots of options, none may meet your needs precisely. Stock photography is, by definition, generic.

Because stock photography is fairly cheap and easy to come by, you’re likely to see your photos show up in advertising and on websites for other businesses. And in many cases, stock photos simply aren’t all that great; often, creativity and production standards may not meet your expectations.

So, what are your alternatives?

Do it Yourself

Nowadays, just about everyone carries around a fairly powerful camera in the form of a smartphone. While not everyone has a natural knack for photography, it’s possible that with some planning, you can collect enough decent shots to spruce up your website on a shoestring budget.

Having your staff members shoot your photos carries some significant advantages, namely, that you can set up exactly the shots you want. When a photo-worthy event is going on, you don’t need to book time with a pro. Instead, any staff members who will attend the event can plan to take some photos.

If you do plan to shoot photos in-house, planning will be key. Try to delegate oversight to a creative staff member, preferably someone with experience in design or photography. Prior to events, create a list of possible shots, and work with resident leaders in advance who can help stage shots and recruit volunteer resident models.

Always make sure lighting is adequate, don’t shoot from too far away, and edit ruthlessly.

Use Video Instead of Photos

Video is quickly supplanting still photography in importance for marketing programs. One minute of video reportedly can serve as the equivalent of 1.8 million words, and videos are frequently shared on social media.

Filming and uploading short videos has become fairly easy with the advent of smartphones. As with do-it-yourself photography, major advantages of shooting your own videos include convenience and proximity.

When your community is having an event that lends itself to visual storytelling — such as a performance or a themed dinner — consider shooting some video snippets that you can use on your website and social media.

Create Infographics

Not all art options consist of traditional imagery. Especially for data-rich content, an infographic may fit the bill perfectly.

Information such as fees, class schedules, menus or lists can be presented in the form of an infographic. If you’re working with a creative professional who updates your website or social media presence, he or she may have the capability to create quick infographics to use instead of photos.

As you create blog posts and other content to add to your site, think in terms of information you can pull out to create quick graphics.

Leave out Images Altogether

A trend known as “flat design” has made a comeback in recent years. If you decide to incorporate a flat design scheme into your website, you might use simple icons, bright colors and sharp lines and shapes to create an attractive presence.

Rather than using traditional photography or other imagery, flat design often makes design elements out of numbers or text blocks using specifically chosen typography and colors. If the flat design concept appeals to you, your marketing agency can assist you with design concepts that work with your organizational identity.

Accept Submissions

Residents and their family members likely take many photos of various events in your community. You can consider using submitted photos, but you may want to establish some ground rules up front.

Make it clear that you reserve the right to reject photos that don’t meet your standards of quality, and limit the number of photos you run of any one event. With some planning and editing, you can make user-submitted photography work with your design scheme — potentially to great effect.

Showcase Your Community

Stock photography can be useful in many situations, but it doesn’t do anything to show off the unique personality of your senior living community. If you’re working with a limited budget that doesn’t allow for hiring a professional photographer, consider other options — including using photos that your staff members or residents shoot — to capture the moments that make your community special.