In advertising? In social media? In corporate communications?
If you look at the websites of Fortune 100 companies, you will find their landing pages screaming with the sameness of stock photography. Ironic, in that those are the same companies that drive billions in revenue and often spend years and millions arriving at their corporate identity.
Two business professionals earnestly staring at one computer, representing "collaboration." People hovering over a data point hologram of the earth. Five people sitting around a conference room table, watching a power point. A group representing an alphabet soup of diversity pretending to have a happy conversation. This is the language of stock photography. The list of subjects could fill catalogs, and does.
Of course, it's easy to understand the benefits of stock. It’s cheap. It's easy to use and access. It's mostly inoffensive and vanilla. And it saves on time and talent. So why do so many very successful companies with the time, resources and money it takes to produce unique and quality visual elements resort to stock? Either they don't think it matters, or they don't understand how much it's hurting them.
1. Stock wastes valuable space. In an eye-tracking study by Nielsen Norman Group, people gloss over or entirely ignore generic or stock images. Every stock shot is like a blank space on one of the most valuable pieces of real estate your brand has: your website. And even if it isn't necessarily hurting your brand, it's not helping either. It's still invisible. In the crowded marketplace that is the current marketing world, anything that isn't actively working to create meaningful differentiation is ultimately hurting you.
2. Stock can hurt your brand as an employer. In recent years, there has been an effort to represent diversity in stock. Nonetheless, it is still primarily white and male. It may not be intentional, but when you show photography that does not allow for other viewpoints to exist, you exclude future talent.
With real creative (i.e., creative that is authentic), you attract talent because they see a real picture of your company, and not one that is computer-generated.
In a post by Intechnic, there is a comparison between real and staged photos. The net result of using authentic visual language builds up over time. Authentic pictures make your brand look authentic and approachable.
Your brand has a personality. As they say at the company called allBusiness, “There’s nothing more inauthentic than a professionally staged photograph of people who clearly don’t work at the company. It puts your company behind an overly polished veneer that makes you seem distant and possibly uninviting.”
3. Stock sacrifices your brand vision and likeability. Images have a language of their own. When you talk about your brand, your product, and your vision for the future, would you use someone else's words? No matter how deep you go down the rabbit hole in a stock photography search, you will invariably make a concession on the integrity of your brand. Unless, of course, your company happens to sell stock photography.