Please Step Away from the Stock Photos

On By - Best Practices - 3 Comments


When you’re flipping through television channels and looking for something to watch, chances are you’ll know within .2 seconds whether what you are currently watching is a commercial. The same rings true for radio, which will typically cause you to immediately change the station (unless you’re one of the 1 in 1.5 million people who actually enjoys non-Super Bowl commercials). This concept also translates into digital media, but it’s not in the form you would expect.

Consumers of online media become accustomed to what they see, whether it’s their favorite homepage or an online ad. They will know immediately whether they plan on staying on a page or reading an email just from cognitive association. Because of this, internet users have become very well-trained in the art of associating stereotypical stock images with advertisements. Why? Because that’s usually all they’re used for. Let’s face it, the pictures that pop up in your Facebook feed of your old college roommate’s birthday party don’t usually look like this:


I would even bet that if you were to take pictures around your office, they would never turn out like this. Unless, of course, you just happen to work with suit models that like to pose and smile often in well-lit areas. But for the rest of us who don’t work in that sort of office environment, pictures like this come off as disingenuous, fake, and overly commercial. Since most people will have the same subconscious reaction upon seeing images such as those featured above, it would behoove you to keep them out of your emails and digital media.

Take for example our weekly newsletter, the GameChanger, and the images we typically incorporate:


Those graphics were actually hand-drawn by Chris on his tablet and made specifically for the headlines they correspond with. No stock images. No generic photos. Just quirky, digitally hand-crafted art. Are they perfect? No, but that’s what makes them eye-catching and unique. For those of you who would rather stick to photographs, here’s another example from the GameChanger:


Is is a photograph taken at a corporate event? Sure. But this picture is actually of WhatCounts CEO Allen Nance giving a presentation on email at an event. What makes this different from a stock photo is: 1. He’s a real person that people can identify with and perhaps actually know personally and 2. He’s obviously talking about something that pertains to our company’s subject matter. Ultimately, we want you to know that we’re real living, breathing, blinking people and what better way to do so than photographic proof?

Ultimately, if you want to use generic stock photos for your digital media, then go right ahead — There are a lot of people who do so. But it’s because of that reason it would benefit you to start trying something new. Take pictures around the office of your actual co-workers or random objects that pertain to what your content is on; get crafty! The more you shake things up a bit in your email campaigns with these new images, the more you will see your clickthrough rates begin to increase.

Sarah Zibanejadrad
Inbound Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts

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3 Responses to "Please Step Away from the Stock Photos"
  1. Nick Stamoulis says:

    Stock photos are often used because they are easy to access and may be free or cheap to use. Overuse can get old after awhile though. Adding some “real” pictures to the mix can make your content more easy to relate to, and probably more believable too.

  2. Kristina Weis says:

    I’ve never been a fan of stock photos on websites, but I hadn’t thought
    about why they’re bad. The TV commercial comparison is great!

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