In the past few years, I’ve heard increasing amounts of clients/colleagues discuss and ask for my opinion on the usage of stock photography on their websites. The various points of views and debates regarding stock photography usage can be all over the place. Some professionals think stock photography only dilutes your brand, and lowers the value of your content. Others will swear by its usage because of the many benefits like the costs or availability. It can sometimes be a tough sell to executives who have only heard the bad press buzz that stock photography has received. And in fact, when I was working at Angie’s List as a UX/UI designer, there was a big movement from executives for never using stock photography for the website user interface (UI), but there was never a clear understanding regarding why we were told this. So lets take a step back and look at the real problem of stock photography – the poor usage of stock photos that are seen in the wild and the true basic understanding of what stock photography is and isn’t.
Imagine you are talking to someone who has only ever tasted pizza once (impossible, I’m sure, but bear with me). They tell you about how much they hated it and how they will never try it again because the first time they ate pizza, it was just so horrible. So naturally, you query about their pizza, asking them where they got it, what toppings they ate and what of style it was made. You then try to explain to them that the gas station slice of pizza they had was nothing compared to the amazingness of Chicago deep dish pizza (let’s be honest – it’s the best). But there they are, unwilling to try it again because they assume all pizza is just as shitty as the single lukewarm slice they got at a local BP gas station. If you are anything like me, you would also be pretty upset that they had built up this misconception of pizza all because of the one bad experience they had. That is my (tasty) analogy about how stock photography is viewed by many people.