Pittfalls of Using Stock Photo

My company’s website was redesigned few months back. I had nothing to do with it, because I’m not really a designer. I’m a back-end dude – I live in PHP and MySQL, and while I’m no stranger to CSS, design is not my cup of tea. For one, my ‘shop skills are abysmal and my grasp of composition, and color theory is fair at most.

The website they designed is nice. Personally, I would tidy up the code and dump the rolling javascript driven footer but then again, that’s not my department. Besides, the composition is nice, colors work, and the stock photos they used give the site that slick and professional look.

For example, this young lady’s smiling face ended up on our home page becoming the de-facto face of the company:

Stock Photo

Who is she? Who knows – some anonymous model who posed for a stock photo that is being offered on few dozen stock photo reseller sites. Why do I bring her up? Because I saw her again, in more than one place. For example, here is the cover of a free Polish junk magazine published by a popular hosting company:

Hosting Mag

Where did I see that girl before? Oh, yeah – she was on our website. Needless to say, she is no longer used on our front page. You don’t want the face that shows up on cheep publications, and dozens of websites representing your company.

Stock photos are nice, but you have to remember they are not original. The really good ones – ones that catch your eye right away, are bound to get popular and start showing up in odd places. Your website represents your company, and in a way the photo that people see when they visit it is very important. If you using a very common picture, you are not really making a spectacular first impression on your customers. So, sometimes investing in original photography for websites and advertising publications is a good idea.

[tags]stock photo, photography, web design, design, pictures[/tags]

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12 Responses to Pittfalls of Using Stock Photo

  1. MZ CROATIA Mozilla Firefox Mac OS says:

    It’s a good idea to use one stock photo website only (like iStockphoto for example) and filter through only photos that are exclusive to that website. With every photo there’s also a number of downloads and that can give you some perspective. I’ve had nothing but good experiences with stock photography by following this principle. It’s fast, cheap and if something like above happens you can replace the photo in a heartbeat. It still beats paying $1000 or more for a photo shoot ;)

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  2. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Yeah, you are right. If it’s on a website then switching a stock photo is not an issue. It’s worse if you are distributing stuff in print. Recalling stuff, or tossing few thousand copies into the trash may end up being more costly than the $1k photo shoot. :)

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  3. I modeled in some stock photography for a friend a few years ago, and my cousin found me sitting in a tree in the middle of a Japanese newsletter last year.

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  4. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    I’m afraid you will keep finding yourself in various publications like that for the rest of your life now. So I guess you sort off achieved immortality… ;)

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  5. Teague UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    When my company recently re-designed it’s website, they took the time to take pictures of all the principles, so that as you navigate through the site you see pics of the actual people you would be dealing with if you were a client or job applicant. Each area of work we do has it’s own page, with pictures of the relevant people there, not just on our bio page. They ain’t models, but they’re real. The idea came from client suggestions, and we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback.

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  6. Miloš UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    While I can see the benefits of stock photograpy for environmental and ambient photos I hate to see it used for individuals. I believe that whenever there’s a face on your web site or in print it should always be a current employee, not some random person. Having real people on your photos helps create closeness with your customers and helps identify people behind blogs and web site(s).

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  7. I agree with Miloš. Clients/readers want to identify with the company/individual – not with the perfect smile and ingenuine appearance of a stock model.

    By the way, the article that my photo was in was about teenagers and safe sex. They can take a stock photograph and do anything with it!

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  8. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Well, my boss had the idea of putting our pictures on the website but that didn’t fly well with the staff. No one really wanted to have their picture displayed there so the whole thing got dropped and we went with the stock photo.

    But yeah. I agree – having real people there instead of stock photo models is always nice.

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  9. Dan UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    This is almost creepy because just today a company I consult for put up a new website and they used that EXACT picture.

    I’ll have to link you in private to make sure you are not working for the same place haha.

    Good point though. I could make her the pretty, smiling face of Herpes if I so please.

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  10. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Well, we just took her off our page and put up a new picture. So I’m guessing it’s a different company. But who knows – email me. lol

    That chick seems to be getting more popular by the day.

    [quote post="2030"]I could make her the pretty, smiling face of Herpes if I so please.[/quote]

    When I first read it, it almost seemed like:

    “I could give her pretty smiling face some Herpes if I so pleased”

    LOL I had to re-read that sentence to make sure this is not what it said.

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  11. Dan UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Ahaha! Yes, context is very important. But I find it hilarious how an innocent picture can be destroyed with a few words. Hence the popularity of motivational posters.

    Kidding about the company, but I did find it to be a huge coincidence.

    I sent the link for lulz.

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  12. GreenGate3000 UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Its hard when choosing stock photography for a bigger company to make sure you have a more original photo. As far as more everyday graphics work, most website, or advertising going with stock photography is the best way to go. its fast, convenient, and reliable with a good selection of images. it helps me all the time in my day to day work as a graphic designer. some really good website that i use are http://www.glowimages.com/ and http://www.istockphoto.com. i hope this can help some people out.

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