Stock images can be a saving grace when you’re in a creative bind. All you do is go online and download a beautiful image. Sounds great, right? It can be, when done sparingly. Otherwise there can be creative disadvantages.

Regularly using stock images can make your content look and feel stagnant or unauthentic. Stock imagery has become a crutch among creative teams. Attaching them to every post and article is counterproductive and harmful to your company’s brand.

To put it simply, this arsenal will be a collection of original photographs to use—and reuse—whenever you need. Putting one together is the best way to break the habit of using stock images. With that in mind, here are four reasons why businesses need an arsenal of original photos:

IT’S YOUR OWN WORK

Having a folder full of original photos gives you freedom to use them for whatever you’d like. If you can’t find anything on a stock image site, you could try Google. Just be sure you’re up to speed on copyright laws. If you got your own photos though, there’s no consequence of plagiarism.

Shutterstock maintains a library of over 200 million images, and they have nearly 2 million users. The more refined your search, the harder is it to find the exact photo you need. Stockpiling your own company-related photos makes it easier to comb through for the perfect shot.

Original photos are easily discernible from stock ones. Customers will notice the difference in consistency if you overuse stock images. If you’re just beginning, use a 50-50 mix. It’s a good starting ratio for blogs and media. From here, it’s easy to build up a folder of original work.

BRAND-SPECIFIC PHOTOS

Businesses strive for originality, no matter the industry. It can be tough when your competitors have similar-looking websites, copy, or product. If you see enough company websites within the same industry, you’ll see patterns in their website layout, and copy. This is where you’ll notice the same stock images repeatedly being used. However, there are steps you can take to set yourself apart.

When building your arsenal, start with photos of your colleagues. Show the world who’s behind the velvet curtain and what they do. Stock image sites have thousands of photos of “people in an office” and you'd be surprised how often the same image gets published. Not using your colleagues in photos is a wasted opportunity. After all, they are the face of your organization.

Take photos of your colleagues according to what you need. If you’ve written an article on a specific team, photograph them working together, brainstorming, or hanging out together. You never know what you may or may not publish in an article. Plus, the extra photos can be used in a future blog or social media post.

Photos of company culture is a gold mine. Employees like to brag about their benefits and how often they have a team-building event. These are important reasons why someone might stick around for the long haul. Company culture photos are perfect for HR during their recruitment process.

Brand-specific photos also lead to increased conversion rates and better company transparency.

IMPROVE YOUR PHOTO SKILLS

A common excuse for using stock photos is, “I’m not a photographer.” OK. Fine. I’m not asking you to be Annie Leibovitz or Steve McCurry, but it’s not that hard to take a photo. I’m sure there is at least one person at your company with an eye for photography.

The more you practice, the better you’ll get. There are great editing programs for post-production work and loads of how-to videos online. Investing a few hours per week in these areas will improve your photo skills. Your colleagues will also get comfortable with you the more you walk around and take photos.

Depending on your industry, it can be difficult to take creative and interesting photographs. The IT industry is challenging for photographers. Most IT employees spend their day working at a computer, which limits what you can shoot. This can force you to be creative and collaborative, so take advantage of it.

If you’re having a tough time, ask for help and get ideas from other departments. You may be surprised where that next “aha!” moment comes from.

IT’S MORE AFFORDABLE

Stock image sites are expensive. Shutterstock charges $99 for 50 photos per month, and that’s one of the cheapest options. It’s also time consuming to comb through page after page of results. If you need something specific for your brand, the search time can quickly add up.

If you’re still unsure about your photography skills, there are always affordable local photographers who are chomping at the bit for work. Their prices are sometimes negotiable, too. The money is better spent on local photographers anyway because they’ll be photographing your colleagues, the office, and company culture.

There are tons of new and used cameras to choose from, so don’t worry about breaking your budget here. It’ll be a great investment for your creative team. Or, if your business is just starting, you can save money by using your smartphone. These photos are perfect for social media posts. I wouldn’t rely on a smartphone for your website but, if you must, follow these guidelines.

KEEP ON SHOOTING

Stock images are made to capture a stereotypical idea of an industry. They’re vague portrayals of a business, created without any specific company in mind, which is why they can be used everywhere.

Building an arsenal of your own photos will set you apart. Your original images will represent your brand, celebrate your company culture, and show off your employees. Your customers will also notice and appreciate the consistency and originality.