Do You Think Stock Photography Sucks?

Stuntdbl has a good rant about stock photography of people:

“Stock people on a website decreases your credibility. No, I haven’t done extensive studies on this, but I can spot stock photos of people from a mile off, and sites with it are much less likely to get my dollar than a site with a REAL picture of REAL people on it. … Do you ALWAYS treat your customers like they’re idiots? Do you really think they believe you dress in a suit everyday and your skin is flawless?”

I think he’s right. I think that real pictures work well on the web because visitors are hunting for signs of credibility. They can’t see you in person, or see the bricks n’ mortar, so they are looking for other signifiers of trust.

I think big companies tend to get away with stock people photography more often than small companies, because their credibility is established in other ways. Also, aspirational brands don’t tend to benefit from warts-n-all personal relationship-based approaches. That isn’t what they’re selling, so the objectified perfection of stock-beautiful people may work better for them.

I guess the trick is that we do what is appropriate for our audience and what we’re trying to sell, eh.

  1. John ScottJohn Scott06-01-2006

    Discussion here.

  2. SophieSophie06-01-2006

    I guess stock photography of people could be compared with fake testimonials. Both stand out like, well, you know what. 😉

  3. John ScottJohn Scott06-01-2006

    Sophie I tend to think of it as a design element. I see a ton of it, like:

    It is no substitute for actual staff photos, but there is a place for it. No?

  4. SophieSophie06-01-2006

    Sure if it’s done right John. For example I’ve often noticed a lot of Australian website with stock photos of people who are districtly American (yes there is a difference ;)). This doesn’t lend credibilty to the company IMO. Using stock of Australians would go a lot further in giving the site credibility.

  5. Peter Da VanzoPeter Da Vanzo06-01-2006

    I agree that if it’s done right, no problem. There is an obvious danger in coming across as fake when a market demands authenticity.

    Perhaps it’s also a matter of personal taste.

  6. John ScottJohn Scott06-01-2006


    True, true. I saw a stock photo of some business people on a web host site and it was presented in a way to make it look like the people were staff, and that didn’t sit well.

  7. DarrenCDarrenC06-01-2006

    For the example you have given stock photography DOES suck – I mean how false does that website look to the visitor or customer. It’s probably one person trying to portray that it’s a large organisation.

    I use stock photography alot on my travel blog – so if I am writing about a specific destination, I’ll add a photograph of an icon or attraction from that destination, from a stock photography website. In this example I think it splits up the text and gives the reader something to look at.

  8. King CobraKing Cobra09-01-2008

    Well you have to be selective using stock photography but it does have its place as well. It also depends on your choice of stock photography.

    King Cobra Poker

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