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Stock photos and mock ups, what's the difference?
With so many of us bloggers and business owners out there, the need for great and modern photos has increased a lot and some new terms are now being used to describe best the purpose of a stock image. However it doesn't mean that we all know them and what they represent exactly. I'd like to bring some clarity on a few terms that still may be sound a little confusing to you. Here's what we're going to look at:
  1. stock photography
  2. styled stock photography
  3. mock ups
  4. mock up scene creators

They sound pretty similar but rather technical don't they? Let's have a look, visuals always help more! I will use three different photos on the same theme to show you the difference between the first three terms, and I will link the last one to an online example as I don't create scene creators myself.

1. Stock photography

Back to the basics, you probably know this already: a stock photo is a high quality image that has been shot with a theme in mind for a rather large but specific audience. It needs to convey a message but it also needs to stay generic enough so people can use it. We used to think of stock photography as people smiling around a table in a meeting room. Not so fancy! Or these pens on graphs with old-fashioned glasses, remember?

Well, this is definitely changing. With the arrival of sites like Stocksy, Offset, Creative Market, 500px and so on, you can now find pretty much any photo that will clearly represent your message and also very importantly, your style. Here's an example of a stock photo:

As you can see, the audience I have in mind here are female entrepreneurs who like a soft, clean and feminine style with a touch of elegance.

So who is stock photography for? Anyone really! Any business from the Well-being industry to Finance through Fashion can require the use of stock photos. They're helpful for blog posts, banners, publications etc.

I would however suggest not to use them all the time, as if you want to develop your business in the long term, getting custom made photos would definitely help your brand and blog stand out.

2. Styled stock photography

It's pretty close to stock photography, but the addition of "styled" makes it a more recent term, targeted at small business owners and bloggers. It's perfect if you need a photo with some ornaments (styling) that fits your brand, but that also has some space for you to add your own touch. By touch I mean it can be some text, a logo, a title, a graphic, an illustration or any other type of digital artwork that you may want to add in there. You can also use a styled stock photo as a banner and on social media depending on your needs.

Here's an example of a styled stock photo:

Here the styling fits the theme of the previous photo, but there's space on the left for you to add your blog title or your logo or your current promotion etc. You could also use this image and crop it so it becomes a simpler stock photo instead.

If you're Photoshop savvy, then you could also add your own product on there and create a mock up out of this which brings us to look into the next term, mock ups.

3. Mock ups

Now a mock up is a little more specific and targeted at designers and makers. A mock up is a way for you to showcase your product technically before it's out there in the world. You would mock up a shop window, a room, a product before you make it real, so it gives you a better idea of what you're trying to achieve and you'll feel like you've tested out your product and can refine it. It's so difficult sometimes to imagine how something will look like right? That's why Ikea have all these different living rooms and kitchens for you to play in before you buy your next sofa or your next table. It's like staging, but on a much smaller scale.

Mock ups are a little bit like stock photos in the way they recently evolved as well (yes they've been around for a while!). I used to think of them as floating business cards on a grey background, or a coffee cup with errrr. no background at all. But again, within the last 3 years, this has changed and evolved into something that looks so real, with more styling, that it really adds life and a 'Ummph' to your product. That's also great because it saves you a lot of time on styling and shooting your product yourself. Here's a mock up example:

If you're a web designer and you create themes, this could work great for you to show a feminine new Wordpress theme. Even as an online business, if you just got a website refresh or a new shop and you want to show it off, this could work great for you. Here are a few examples of mock ups:

  • business cards & branding kits
  • Packaging: coffee cups, mugs...
  • Frames and wall art (what I do most!)
  • Stationery: invitations, cards, notebooks etc.
  • Cushions, fabric, hoops, tote bags...
  • Magazines
  • Screens like iPads, Macs, laptops and phones
  • And many more!

I would also encourage to use them to launch your product. It's a great way to get you started as you won't need to spend as much money hiring a photographer, but again, once you're up in the game, getting custom photos just for your brand will do wonders.

A mock up is generally built as a flat photo. It can either stay a flat photo or have an area designated for inserting the client's work. I normally use smart objects, other use pngs files too. However, the mock up is supposed to serve one purpose only, which is to show the artwork staged. Now let's have a look at scene creators, which are targeted at designers who know how to manipulate Photoshop and are happy to spend time creating their own mock ups.

4. Mock up scene creators

This is a bigger tool that adds a ton of value but also need quite some time investment from your side. I purchased one back in 2014 when I needed to style and showcase my graphic design portfolio, but it didn't really work for me because I needed to spend time arranging everything and there's this look that was not real enough for me. But these, like mock ups and stock photos are also evolving and here'a great example of a simpler scene creator that works really well and that looks perfect:

It's modern and fresh and the items on there look real, and that's super important for your final look. The great thing with these is that you can create more custom and branded images for your site or social media, without having to take a new photo each time. But like I mentioned, you do need to know your way within Photoshop and work around the items until you get what you need.

The way it works is that you start on a blank canvas, and every single object included can be moved around and rearranged to give you the ability to create the final look yourself. A lot of scene creator items are in fact digital reproductions of real photo props, which adds a slight shiny effect onto them but allows you a greater control over your scene.

So have you figured out what sort of photos would work for you? Is there something else you wish existed? If so please let me know! 

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