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Death To Stock Photography Business Teams

by :: 07 July

One of the worst online practices is the use of stock photography for sales or marketing teams and organizations. You know what I mean. We've all seen them. The photo of a business team on a tech company's website, their formulaic poses, hip looks and perfect teeth.

Bad Stock Photos of People

Consider these images, available at any stock image service: 1) the way-too-integrated business team, 2) the orgasmic computer screen, and 3) the high-five-we-just-saved-the-world team shot. Most likely you already know what I'm talking about, but let's break each down, just for fun.

Too Much Integration

I've been a part of business teams for twenty-five years and never — and I mean NEVER — has one of them looked like the United Nations poster for equality.

In the forefront of this photo is always a strong male or female — black or hispanic — too nicely dressed, wearing a plastic smile. People who smile, according to research, are judged to be more sincere and sociable. But if the smile isn't sincere do we turn the tables and judge them more harshly, or do we see them as cardboard cutouts?

Most of us are capable of spotting a fake smile, but we we don't always do it well. Real smiles are an unconscious act, an emotional release. When we smile for real, regardless of race or ethnicity, the orbicularis oculi and the pars orbitalis muscles around the eyes contract, along with the mouth and cheek muscles. Fake smiles require a conscious effort are usually limited to the mouth and cheek muscles.

That black or hispanic guy in the front of your "team" photo betrays you with his fake smile. With smiles, it's in the eyes — or not.

Behind the lead guy in the silk suit with the perfect smile is the beautiful white chick — also impeccably dressed — with a low-cut blouse under her suit jacket. The blouse never reveals anything. It just makes you wonder.

Then, of course, is the forgotten white guy. Drifting to the back of the photo, slightly out of focus, a forgotten prop easily dismissed. He's needed for balance in the photograph and you are correct when you wonder if he is actually old enough to be in a business environment.

The characters in the team shot may switch positions from time to time but one thing is always consistent. They are not from your office.

The Orgasmic Computer Screen Photo

Some photos should be outlawed. The only time your employees have ever stood around someone's computer cheering was the day they discovered the embarrassing YouTube video of you. Seriously, it's never happened — except maybe in porn addicted offices where the employer allows unlimited surfing of the web. And how many of those offices are there?

The "We Just Saved The World!" Photo

You are electricians, plumbers, landscapers, and ocean bound oil clean-up and recovery companies, amongst other businesses. While you may have helped quite few people along the way did you really jump and high-five the entire office because you solved that customer service issue? All of your co-workers? All at once? Okay, if you run an ocean bound oil clean-up and recovery company you may have. I salute you and you are exempt from this rant. As for the rest of you I'm fairly certain the only cheering done at work is when leaving early for happy hour on Friday. Come on, people. Do these stock images really represent you and your staff, your company?

The Solution

It' makes no sense ranting and making fun without providing a solution, or solutions. This one is easy. In fact, there are two solutions to the stock photo team issue. The first: consider getting out your own camera (or pay someone else) and taking some photos of your actual staff. They add realism and character. Use odd angles and perspectives. Let your staff's personality come out. Let them shine. They're real. And I'm betting they're valuable to you and your customers.

The second solution to the stock photo business people dilemma: take a completely different approach. Drop people altogether. Maybe, add some humor. Ask yourself these questions: who are we as a company or organization? Who do we want to become?

Recently, I finished a design for a local church. They pride themselves as being a church accepting of people as they are. Before every sermon they say: "We are a real church for real people." One of the pages on their site describes what they mean by this statement. (Click here ») Ten years ago I drew a funny penguin on my computer. He is wearing sunglasses, a hawaiian shirt, and a toe ring. I've wondered over the years if I would ever be able to use it in my work.

This page for The Rock Church seemed the perfect opportunity. I found a photo of a group of penguins walking in a line — all looking the same, as penguins do. I dropped my guy into the photo — come as you are. No one at the church has complained. Everyone gets the meaning and it's a completely different approach to the typical stock photography shot.


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