20 Apr, 2017

Stock Photography: Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder

Recently, the BBC published a slightly mocking blog on the weird and wonderful world of stock photography and they certainly did well at crawling all those cheesy images that make our creative team’s skin crawl.
But, stock photography isn’t all that bad, we use it regularly and if you use it well you can avoid some of the issues noted by the blog.

Why use stock photography at all?

This one’s an easy answer really, cost and ease. The leading stock sites, such as iStock or Shutterstock, have millions of images available at the touch of a button. Meaning that getting that perfect shot you need is easy, it doesn’t depend on the right schedules or weather and, being brutally honest, a single shot will likely be lower cost than a full photoshoot and post-editing.

When not to use stock photography

This is all about honesty, if you’re trying to show customer something that is ‘you’, be that your team, your premises or a certain way of working / piece of machinery, then you need to organise a photoshoot and get real photographs taken.

The last thing you want to do is get in hot water by portraying someone else’s premises as yours or find out that the internal factory shot you liked so much is actually from your biggest overseas competitor. And, team shots, they should always be your actual team, without fail.

How to work with stock photography

Firstly, you should be getting guidance and input from your creative or digital agency, it’s what you pay them for! We try to get an understanding of a client’s needs and provide them with a number of appropriate images for them to pick from to aid the process.

For websites, its best to construct a theme that works with your brand and some rules around which you can start to select images for example rules might be:
  • Are we using photos that include people?
  • Are we using abstract shots rather than more representational images?
  • If landscapes are chosen, is it city scape or countryside?
  • Are we looking for a colour consistency: B&W, bright or predominantly one colour?
  • What do we definitely want to avoid? Perhaps certain imagery of sectors you can’t serve.
  • Locality of image: do we want to ensure the images are of UK based scenes or are we happy that they may include New York scenes?
Also, remember to research your competitors, you don’t want to be using the exact same photos that your main competitor is using to promote their work in the sector.

The main rule however, as the BBC article mentions, is avoid clichés. Business isn’t typically a room full of perfectly groomed models smiling incessantly and to be honest, how many times have you seen the iStock Business/Professional Man with the grey hair, grey suit and abnormally bright white teeth?