OK, before I begin let me say that I use stock photography. Stock photos are a great convenience. I sometimes depend on it, especially in a crunch or when I just need someone smiling and expressing happiness for a call center spot. That being said, there comes a time when stock photography is so obviously staged, politically correct fluff that screams “I am STOCK PHOTOGRAPHY!”
You all know the image, a group of happy employees who all are various ages, genders and races. Everyone is sitting around a desk pointing to a computer screen in some bland office interior.
Sometimes only the top few results are ever used in a stock library search and those photos are everywhere. How do we avoid these pitfalls of overused imagery and photography?
Don’t use the top results when searching. Everyone will use these. Dig a little deeper into the search and find something that is a bit different. There are tons of examples out there today showing the same photo on a cover of a book and than used for another companies homepage.
One famous example from several years ago is used on both a software design book and a feminine hygiene product. It is kind of like showing up to your friends party and someone else in the room has the same exact outfit on. Check out Presentation Zens list of some pretty good free sites to get photos from.
Shoot people (with your camera that is). Find your own co-workers or target audience and get a real world situation. This is a bit harder but it can be perceived as honest and surely unique, or if it is not done correctly it can look cheap. Models are models for a reason, they are either good looking or fit a certain type. Hiring models and shooting the photos in house will ensure your photos are unique, but this is what you are paying for.
I had a friend that found a stock photo of a skinny, middle aged, good looking white guy for his about page on his accountant for hirer site. Almost every client he met that came from his website noticed that he was overweight and balding and asked about the photo, “Is that you on your website?” Not cool. He realized the problem, we shot a simple portrait with basic lights from the office and nobody asked him again.
However if you shoot your own company workers it may be a good idea to make sure that they sign a model release, if they are no longer with the company in the future it may become an issue or you will just have to re-shoot.
Think creatively. If you need to find something from a stock library think outside the box. Maybe even go for the situational shot or metaphors. Do you have a yoga site or how to get better sleep article, use clouds or water, images that evoke a response subtly can be very effective. Also creatively edit the image, crop into it or combine two or more photos together to create a new photo.
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