Stuntdbl has a good rant about stock photography of people:
“Stock people on a website decreases your credibility. No, I havenâ€™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 theyâ€™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.