Stock photos don’t a great reputation. They’re cheesy and are easily recognizable, so a lot of marketers avoid using them. But I’d like to argue that stock photos aren’t the issue, it’s how you choose them.
Genuine top-quality stock photos expand your marketing opportunities. So let’s go through 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 impacts the perception of the whole message you strive to deliver. Having a limited budget on hiring a professional model or finding persons to cover a topic related to them, photographers have flooded stock websites with images of people expressing fake joy or anger.
When picking a photo for your projects, keep track of people’s emotions and facial expressions. Make sure they appear natural, just like the photographer captured them in a real-life scene all of a sudden. This will make the content feel more genuine rather than cheap and staged.
2. Doppelgänger models
There are tons of stock photos out there of people wearing all-too-similar outfits, looking like weird doppelgängers.
Nowadays, more and more photographers aim for photo styling, 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. They have different stories and backgrounds, which make each photo real and vivid.
But if they’re all wearing the same-ish outfit, those stories will fall flat — so make sure to go for more interesting ones.
3. Ridiculous metaphors and allegories
Although stock photography intends to illustrate concepts and deliver a clear message covering various situations, some photographers generalize the topic and create plain 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 conceptual photography exclusively to professional artists. Many stock photographers are good enough at illustrating creative concepts, but it’s on you to choose the right ones.
During the golden age of fashion magazines with flawless imagery, stock photography looked perfectly polished too. Today, things have changed, and photos that look natural have become the new black — which is why you should avoid over-edited gloss pics like the one below.
By choosing real-looking photos with blemishes and imperfections, you have far better chances that your content will resonate with your target audience.
5. Cheesy clipart
You can’t have an article on stock photos without mentioning clipart.
Clipart portrays abstract concepts like ‘leadership’, ‘motivation’, ‘teamwork’ etc. As many stock websites are available for authors of any skill level, who are eager to sell their content, the number of cheesy clipart that portrays a concept in the most obvious way has grown exponentially.
They fail to grab attention and are hardly able to drive action.
Are there any alternatives? Sure.
Consider choosing more appealing and fresh imagery. For example, take 3D illustrations, which are still not outdated (the keyword is still!), or make a collage with several relevant photos.
But, please stay away from any images demonstrating abstract concepts literally!
So the next time you’re choosing 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 of your target audience and don’t forget about the context. The image you’re going to choose should be a perfect match between your product and clients.
Remember that the right message delivered to the right audience at the right time is a key to a successful marketing campaign.
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