February 17, 2009

Why stock photos suck - Part 1

Think about what makes good stock photos for business - photos that are useful to many buyers.

1 - They're generic - they could work equally well for many buyers.

2 - They often have lots of negative (or empty) space around them so they can be cropped many ways and have room to overlay text on them.

3 - They can be interpreted in several ways, or they communicate an idea that lots of companies can use.

4 - They usually have no clearly identifiable sense of place. Certainly not a particular business.

The very things that make them good stock photos are their weaknesses. 

If they can be interpreted in several ways, they communicate nothing. They're just clip art.

If it's an image that a competitor could use, you're not showing any compelling reason to choose you.

Because they have so many traits in common, they're instantly recognizable as stock. They don't ring true. They destroy trust.

When companies use them in their marketing, prospects think - what are they hiding? Why are they afraid to show who they really are? Is this enterprise that talks about being able to do such great things so small that they can't afford to hire a photographer for a few hours?

At the very least, they'll just be treated as noise and ignored.

Given the opportunity to communicate to the prospect a few photos that show what makes them different and why prospects should choose them, they've elected to look just like everyone else.

Their marketing sucks. The small amount of money that they thought they saved in photography has lost them new customers worth far more. 

And they don't even know it.