top of page

Don’t smile for the camera: Using stock imagery effectively

“A picture is worth a thousand words” is an adage we've heard over the years. From the selfie, we take on Instagram, to the scenic landscape pictures we take while on vacation it is easy to see why photography is king. However, branding takes that further and insists that a picture defines your company. A picture, a single picture, is the difference between client engagement and client apathy. Unless you have an extensive photography budget, stock imagery will be the most effective way to get quality photos. So here are a few things to keep in mind when you are choosing the right photography for your brand:

Avoid direct eye contact.

You know how in movies when a character looks directly at the camera? That’s called breaking the 4th wall. It breaks the illusion that we are watching a story unfold in which we are not participating. When the actor looks directly at us, we are ripped out of the scene and reminded that this is a film. 

A no-no:

The same rule applies to stock imagery. Having the subjects look directly into the camera, at the audience, is a sure-fire way to disengage someone. “2 businessmen shaking hands” and looking right at us gives a “join our team” vibe that you get when you see a help wanted sign at your local cinema. Instead, think about the scene being a candid moment. Think of the scene as an intimate business meeting discussing a 3.5 Billion dollar merger. This is an intense conversation between these 2 men…And it just so happens that you are in the room as well. 

Great examples:

 You don’t know what you don’t know.

When you are marketing a product or service to potential customers make no assumptions on the level you will connect with them. If you are marketing to an older, affluent, demographic don’t fall into the “older couple on a yacht watching the sunrise” trap. This limits your customer scope significantly and can come off as patronizing. Remember, people know the type of imagery that is thrown at them vs imagery that is tailored to them. Instead, try a candid photo of an older couple throwing a get-together with family, having a party, or doing something around fitness. This informs your customers that you understand they are not a monolith. 

Take a bit more time researching your demographic’s lifestyles. People have seen the same pandering images in one place or another. Young, 20-something-year-old women promoting beauty products. When studies show that women 65 years and up make up 30% of beauty product consumers. 50% of gym goers are men aged 34 and up, contrary to popular belief. When the face for many gyms and fitness products is 20-something-year-olds with a 6-pack and perfect lats. Due diligence goes a long way to attract new customers who don’t usually engage with similar products/services.

Great examples:

Look out for doppelgangers.

If I had a dollar for every reused stock image I've seen used across different industries…well let's say…. I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. Double-check your stock images to see if they have been used before. Sometimes a reverse Google image search can help. Checking your competitor's collateral and website can help as well. A good rule of thumb is to avoid the first 1 to 2 pages in your search results. It is not a perfect fix, but you will likely start to move away from the most popular and used images. Most of the time I spot a doppelganger in the wild for a simple consumer base. “Family eating dinner together” to show the importance of family time, or life insurance almost always uses the same 3 - 8 photos. 

Great examples:

Photo by Tyson on Unsplash

AI makes a terrible photographer

By now you’ve seen the millions of AI-produced images floating around social media and now in product marketing. BIG names have been using AI images in their marketing and advertising to receive a not-so-welcoming audience response. All AI-produced images have the same treatment; a soft-edged, universal lit, rounded-edge quality that makes it stick out like a sore thumb. I will do another blog post about the inaccuracies of AI artificial images, but for now, just know the images are riddled with errors. A big one is anything hand-related. AI cannot grasp the concept of an organic material in perspective.


Choosing the right photography for your brand creates an authentic connection with your customers. When you invest time in quality imagery, you are perceived as a quality company. Don’t get overwhelmed by the need for a professional shot when you don’t have the budget. You will get exactly what you pay for. The revenue you bring in with the right stock imagery can afford you a future professional shoot with art direction, models, and editing. So be mindful and make those connections with your customers!

Enjoyed the read? Consider subscribing to be the first to know when a new post drops.

Do you need a keen eye to find the perfect photography for your brand? From picking stock images to directing a photoshoot, Mind the Pixels will make sure your photography speaks volumes about your brand. Contact us today:

18 views0 comments


bottom of page