4 Ways to Frame Your Destination With Digital Stock Photos

July 07, 2022

When destinations appear in news stories or broadcasts, sometimes the images lifted from digital stock photo websites appear less than representative. It’s one thing to share story angles and resources with the media through proactive pitching, but when it comes to stock images, it’s not always in a DMO’s hands.

Anyone can take and share a photo these days.

To ensure that your destination is represented visually with the photos that best showcase it, there are a few steps to take. Digital stock photo websites can be effective allies to spread a positive visual message, but left to their own devices, stale or outdated images – think of Paris’s Notre Dame erroneously with its now defunct spire or New York without its newly iconic Freedom Tower – can just be the start of the frustration when trying to paint an accurate portrait of your destination. 

Things can get worse, however, if the stock images actively work against core values of your destination. A proliferation of white faces, heternormative couples, and able-bodied travelers is not advancing the diversity and inclusion messaging that destinations are seeking to promote.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to get ahead of a visual mishap.

But first, why worry about digital stock photos at all? Well it’s important to know how pervasive digital stock photos are before engaging with them. Local news sites and travel websites tap into them by subscribing and using the photos provided by professional photographers. Travel sites like Expedia will even tap into them for their content, which means that you never know how many millions of people may see an image that you’d deem unworthy of your destination.

But it goes beyond news sites. A digital photo bank like Getty Images owns Istock, a user-generated photo database, and both farm out their photos to other websites like Canva and Lumin5 to make the images available to all sorts of content creators, both amateur and professional.

The point is, these photos get around. So investing upfront to make sure those images are representative is a powerful strategy for destinations – especially those without a huge digital footprint. These four strategies provide the base for framing your destination visually to serve your needs.

1. Contract a Photographer

One way to work on getting representative images out there is by contracting a photographer to become a contributor to a digital photo bank like iStock. Many photographers don’t bother with making a career of these websites because the fees for their photos are not always advantageous. There is an application process to become a contributor to many of these sites, but it’s not an insurmountable task to create a professional presence on them.

And if a DMO commissions a set of photos for a healthy fee up front, it’s a good one-time investment to ensure that the images on these photography services are representative of your community’s best assets. The photographer gets paid actual money while the destination gets some control over what’s being put out onto the digital stock photo websites. Everybody wins.

2. Contract a Content Creator

Take the same approach one step further and integrate your stock photo strategy with your content creator strategy. After all, content creators are some of the best photographers out there, so why not contract them to do both. As the content creator originates content for various social media platforms, commission the content creator for an additional library of photos that can be uploaded to a photo bank like iStock, again giving your destination control over what’s being shown. 

This approach will help reinforce your visual messaging across multiple networks and will give the content creator a little extra passive income as their photos are used by websites subscribing to the photo banks.

3. Contract an Existing Contributor

If you’re a destination with a small presence on the photo banks, consider reaching out to someone who has already created their own identity on iStock, and try to work with them to upload new, refreshed, on-brand photos to their libraries for media companies to use.

Photojournalists and other hobbyists may enjoy the opportunity to earn a fee from the DMO to do some shoots instead of waiting for the royalties to trickle in from Getty Images.

4. Update Your Media Room

No matter the approach, be sure to continue refreshing and updating your DMO’s media kit and media room. Save a few exclusive photos from contracted photoshoots, share them on social media, and leave journalists coming to you to ask where they can find them.

It’s the simplest but often most overlooked way to maintain control over visual messaging. With an ever-increasing army of freelancers, many won’t pay the subscription fees for Getty Images, so having readily available photos on your site that media outlets can use – that are easily accessible without long delays – is a winning strategy to make sure you are focussing the lens.

And not to digress, but if you don’t have a media room yet, well, it’s time to get on that!

Digital stock photo websites are just one way to shape your destination’s brand, and at DCI we have more than 60 years of experience doing just that. Get in touch with Karyl Leigh Barnes at [email protected] to learn more about how an image worth a thousand words does the work you need it to do for your destination.