Stock photos don’t have a great reputation. They’re corny and easily recognizable, so many marketers avoid using them. But I’d like to say that stock photos aren’t the problem, it’s how you choose them.
Authentic, high-quality stock photos expand your marketing opportunities. So let’s go over some common stock photo concepts that make your content look poor, and then some good alternatives to consider.
1. Exaggerated facial expressions
Human emotions are an essential element of photos, which have an impact on the perception of the whole message that you are trying to convey. Having a limited budget to hire a professional model or find people to cover a subject related to them, photographers have flooded websites with images of people expressing false joy or anger.
When choosing a photo for your projects, keep track of people’s emotions and facial expressions. Make sure they look natural, just like the photographer suddenly captured them in a real scene. This will make the content more authentic rather than cheap and staged.
2. Doppelgänger Models
There are tons of stock photos of people wearing overly similar outfits, looking like weird look-alikes.
Nowadays, more and more photographers are aiming for photo style, color schemes, model authenticity and diversity. When you look at their works, you can imagine what the characters are in front of you, what they like and what they don’t like. They have different stories and backgrounds, which makes every photo look real and vivid.
But if they’re all wearing the same outfit, these stories will fall flat — so be sure to pick some interesting ones.
3. Ridiculous metaphors and allegories
Although stock photography aims to illustrate concepts and deliver a clear message covering various situations, some photographers generalize the subject and create simple visuals to express an idea.
Using all their imagination and photo editing skills, they tend to produce tons of content that unfortunately lacks originality.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting leaving metaphors and concept photography exclusively to professional artists. Many stock photographers are pretty good at illustrating creative concepts, but it’s up to you to pick the right ones.
In the golden age of fashion magazines with immaculate images, stock photographs also looked perfectly polished. Today things have changed and photos that look natural have become the new black – that’s why you should avoid over-edited glossy photos like the one below.
By choosing realistic photos with flaws and imperfections, you have a much better chance that your content will resonate with your target audience.
5. Nerdy Clip Art
You can’t have an article about stock photos without mentioning clipart.
Clipart represents abstract concepts such as “leadership”, “motivation”, “teamwork”, etc. most obviously has grown exponentially.
They fail to attract attention and are barely able to drive the action.
Are there alternatives? Sure.
Consider choosing more attractive and fresh images. Take for example 3D illustrations, which are not yet out of fashion (the keyword is always!), or make a collage with several relevant photos.
But please stay away from any image that literally demonstrates abstract concepts!
So the next time you choose a stock photo for a project, keep these five examples in mind.
But also remember that the golden rule of stock photos is to always think about your target audience and don’t forget the context. The image you are going to choose must correspond perfectly to your product and to your customers.
Remember that the right message delivered to the right audience at the right time is the key to a successful marketing campaign.