Business stock photos have become a joke. Even celebrities have gotten in on the act. It’s easy to see why people make fun of them. The sterile business settings and staged situations as well as all those fake smiles simply lend themselves to ridicule. However, to businesses with a limited marketing budget, stock photos are no laughing matter – they are a necessity. Because many companies can’t afford to hire a photographer – for some or all of their marketing projects. Sometimes you just have to go with stock images. However, there are ways to make them work for you without ending up as the butt of a joke.
The problem with business stock photos
The reason why people make fun of them is that many stock photos are ridiculous. They completely lack authenticity and often seem sooooo cliché. Whether it is everybody having a good time in a meeting (and we all know that those meetings don’t exist), lots of handsome young people pointing at a laptop screen for some reason or those phony smiles, it all just seems so fake.
That is why maintaining authenticity is one of the most important things you should do when using stock photos. Fortunately, you don’t need to have a huge photography budget to pull it off. However, you do have to invest some thought and time into picking the right stock photos (I’ll spare you an image of an office worker staring off into the distance while pondering a problem here).
Make stock photos work for you – a few tips
Most importantly, the stock photos you choose have to illustrate or support your story. You have to figure out what you want to say or represent and then keep looking until you find the perfect stock photo. Because you won’t be able to fool your customers. They know exactly what real office look like, or factory floors or construction sites. And they also know what type of people work there. So let’s forget about picking that stock photo in which a bunch of smiling people stand around in spotless lab coats with ill-fitting hard hats in front of an immaculately clean desk or a machine that has clearly never run for a single day. It should go without saying, but you can’t fake authenticity.
The stock photo you choose doesn’t have to be perfect, but it has to be perfect for you – and you may need to take your time finding it. If the image looks familiar to you – or like a cliché – then keep searching because customers will likely feel the same way.
That is why it helps to think outside the box. Is there a creative way to illustrate your point or highlight your product? Maybe you can use imagery from nature, etc.
If you think that you can’t do this alone, then find an expert to assist you. While you may not have a big budget to hire your own photographer, it pays to work with a good graphic designer. They have an eye for images and how to make them work, which allows them to see things from a completely different perspective. They can find the photos that most effectively tell your story, can highlight details, add a special effect, etc.
Finally, while there are some major providers of stock photos, such as iStock and Shutterstock, don’t just try to find your image there because they have the largest selection. While they may have exactly what you are looking for, there are many smaller providers out there that make their money by being particularly creative or cater to a niche audience. Their stock photos might be much better suited to tell your story and promote your brand.
If you do all (or most) of the above, there is a good chance that your stock photos won’t be a joke but rather give you the last laugh (cue to an image of a group of 20somethings sharing a laugh in a meeting room).