Does stock photography help…or hurt?
Posted by Dave McCue on March 14th, 2012
What is your initial reaction to this stock photo?
- I trust him, he’s confident
- I don’t trust him, he’s arrogant
- Someone should punch him
Cast your vote
The Stock Photography Conundrum
Almost anyone who works in design or marketing has faced the challenge of selecting effective stock photography to use as part of print or online materials. On occasion, it is possible to find the perfect image to complement your message, but all too often the result is a cliché or simply doesn’t add much value.
For marketers who don’t have a tangible product, this can be a real challenge. How do you graphically represent “consulting services” without resorting to one of the usual “business people conducting business” images that are out there?
One strategy to avoid the same old is to be less literal with the images. Rather than showing pretend business people pretending to consult, look for an image that conveys the transfer of creativity, such as a paintbrush against a canvas. It’s difficult to make definitive statements around this topic because the audience of different verticals (or even different brands within the same vertical) can be very different in the way they interact with content, but it can be safely said that you’re missing an opportunity when the same stock image used to convey the value of your services is being used by another company offering the same services.
Adding Value to Emails
The limited real estate of an email message is no place for extraneous images. One of the most important benefits that images provide is a higher degree of scanability when it comes to email messages. Often, they can be used to separate unrelated elements of a message (product promotions, upcoming events, latest news) to make it clear to the reader/scanner that there is something else to see if they aren’t immediately drawn in by the first lines of text. Even in these instances where the images serve as a component of message layout, they should be carefully considered.
Ideas for Testing
Searching around the web can turn up various studies related to web users’ response to different types of images. As noted above, however, such findings are not necessarily relevant to your business or your audience. Instead, use these ideas to guide a test (or series of tests) on your emails, landing pages, etc. Do your emails drive more clicks with stock photography, custom graphics, or no graphics at all? What impact do different images have on your landing page, and are you seeing an effect on conversion rate? Lastly, ask colleagues or (preferably) people outside of your organization how they feel about the stock images you plan to use, and take their feedback to heart. You might find that “young-businessman.jpg” doesn’t just sound generic, but he rings hollow with message recipients as well.