It’s not uncommon to stumble upon a website or blog and see stock photos being used. That’s because they’re typically an affordable, easily accessible, and time saving option. But there’s definitely a setback that comes with most stock photos, and that mainly revolves around inauthenticity.
In a study by web expert Jakob Nielsen, it’s shown that users actually ignore generic stock photos when browsing through a website—not exactly the type of experience you want for your audience.
Your images should enhance your brand’s presence, not obstruct it. That’s why it’s important that you ideally have custom, unique photos that best represent your brand. That may not always be feasible while you’re on a tight budget, but luckily there’s always better solutions out there without having to use those cringe-worthy stock photos.
While there’s definitely a difference between a good and a bad stock photo, let’s discuss why you should avoid those tacky options and some better solutions instead.
1. They simply don’t look good
Ever read an article on a website and see an image with some cheesy theme (think “teamwork”) and everyone’s hand stacked in circle? Yeah, I stumble upon that more than I like to admit. It looks terrible. Why? It’s not original. It’s uninspiring. Generic. It looks pretty ridiculous. And do business people actually do that? Probably not.
There used to be a time and place (wayyy long ago) where an image like this would work, but concepts like this have been overdone and exhausted. Find new ways and fresh images that people can actually relate to.
2. It’s not personal
If you have a bad stock photo, people can tell! With most stock photos (especially older ones) there’s definitely a one-size-fits-all approach. Their subject is usually vague and dry—think corporate marketing images with a blue wash and some binary text overlaid.
Your images should be *enhancing* your brand, not dulling it down. Breathe some life into your content with stand-out images.
Create some custom photos. This could be a DIY approach, if you’re keen on that or involve hiring someone to create them. A lot of studios also offer recurring monthly packages at lower rates, which is a perfect option for keeping that fresh content coming!
3. They feel spammy
It’s 2019. Do people seriously still use those stock photos that feel like they’re from the early 2000s? The second I see one of those, I run (or scroll really fast, if we’re trying to be more realistic here).
If you’ve ever stumbled upon a scam website, what kind of photos did they have? I can almost guarantee that they were some cheap stock photos they found, probably involving a someone with bluetooth headset or dressed in business suit, smiling unnaturally.
My first thought when I see those is think, “did they even try to find a good image?” or even worse, “is this a legitimate business?” Don’t let your marketing campaign/social media presence/website look like it’s a mishmash of I-kinda-tried-but-don’t-really-care images—it’ll show. Add some personality into your content that reflects your brand accurately.
Try using user-generated content for your biz. Note: not all UGC will be great; pick some that fit within your brand. Maybe you create a hashtag that your consumers use and find those images there. Ask for their permission before you repost, and tag them in the photo and caption when you use it. Not only are you finding original content, but also engaging and building a relationship with your audience.
4. They don’t always fit your brand
You ever find that perfect photo but it’s notttt quite the color you need it to fit within your brand? No matter *how perfect* the vibe is, if it doesn’t fit within your brand, don’t use it!
It’s important to maintain your brand’s aesthetic—it’s what builds your audience’s familiarity and trust with you. Instead of wasting your time trying to make images fit within your brand, find unique ones that work or create them.
Always use custom imagery when you can. Try switching it up by creating fun GIFs to capture your audience instead, or collaborating with an influencer to make some great content.
5. We STRIVE for authenticity
Us Millennials LOVE when brands connect with us on a personal level. We’ve grown up in a world that advertised to us as if we were just another consumer and we’re over it. We know we’re more than that—we’re people who love discussing issues, finding solutions, and creating genuine friendships.
That’s the digital marketing landscape nowadays and bad stock photos don’t provide for that approach. You can always find great images on Unsplash, but there’s only so many images on there that will fit within your brand. Soon, your image river will run dry—but luckily there’s other great options you can use for images.
Create an inviting space with your online presence. Maybe you have someone to take photos of your workspace, or perhaps you take a snap behind-the-scenes on your latest project. If you’re active on Instagram, get on those stories! Post an inspiring or funny quote (complete in your brand colors) and start a conversation.
While there are definitely some great stock photos out there to get you started, your business should not solely rely on them. Whatever stock images you use, make sure they feel unique, authentic, and true to your brand (no more fake smiling business people and cheesy themes!)
In the end, there’s nothing that can replace the authenticity and creative approach of using custom images. Your audience will feel compelled to engage with them and share them, which is the trust-building foundation for your business. Having control of the style, colors, and messaging of your images will allow your brand to stand out and, ultimately, give you control over the success of your business.
How do you find fresh photos for your business? If you have any other tips or questions, I’d love for you to share them in the comments below!