Person looking at pictures with steam coming from their ears

I hate stock photos!

No_more_stockphotosSince this is the month of love, you might be wondering why I am posting a blog post about something I hate. And ok, yes, if you scroll down a bit you will find some stock photography on this blog so perhaps I should say this in a more nuanced way.  I hate careless use of stock photography. Particularly prominent careless use of stock photography.  You know what I mean… when you go to a B2B website and on the front page or even in the navigation you see the all glass building and suited professionals looking at a computer.  Here, let me show you —–>

What is wrong with this picture? Nothing specifically, we have three business professionals.  We can tell they are business professionals because they are wearing suits.  The picture emanates diversity with its blond women and dark skinned man.  They are working together in peace and harmony (though don’t get me wrong, the white man is still driving the bus.) What is really wrong with this picture is I have seen it many many times on many many websites as a generic representation of “business professional”.  Let’s think about that a little, do you provide a generic service?  Of course you don’t!  Even my friends who sell items that can be considered commodities like to think of themselves and their offerings as unique. Showing generic business professionals is the opposite of differentiation, it is literally describing you and your business as being the same as everyone else.  

iStock_000018445156XSmallWhat Stock photography should you use?

I tend to use photographs of objects that express ideas.  or instance, I used this microphone stock image last month when I was describing public speaking and the challenges and concerns.  This picture has an ominous look that really gets at the idea better than anything I could have snapped on the fly.

What stock photography should you avoid?

If it has someone’s face, think twice about it.  Is there a way that you can get at the idea with something else? Keep in mind, that same smiling face will be representing other products all over the web.  Do you want her to be promoting your brand on your site and promoting laxatives somewhere else? She is wearing the same toothy smile in both promotions (and likely the same sweater.)

Where should you use stock photography?

As you can tell, I do like (and use stock photography) for blogs.  It is easy and it works to express a complicated idea simply.

Where should you avoid stock photography?

Your home page and your primary navigation. That area represents you and your organization.  Put the effort in to get imagery that truly represents your organization.

What can you substitute for stock photography?

None of us want a flat web site.  We want images!  So, if we aren’t using stock photography, what should we be using?

  • Well first of all, what about using bold colors in the design. When you use extensive colors, you can get away with fewer pictures.  Dare I use Spring Insight as an example?
  • Use real photographs. It is great to hire a photographer but you don’t need one. You can get personal with quick snaps or even baby pictures.
  • Just use some snapshots!