Who can spot a stock photo a mile off?

The answer to the question, ‘who can spot a stock photo a mile off?’ is, of course, every one. Which is why any business that values it’s brand, shouldn’t be using them.

Content on a website is an integrated, and incredibly important element of a brand. The website is the shop window, it is here where first impressions are made. As we all know, we make our evaluation on a person or business very quickly. Messing up that initial impression, is really not worth it.

By way of example, on Twitter, I can spot the promoted post, before even reading ‘promoted post’ under the post, just from the stock photo. And that is the crux of the problem. In the last few years as social media and smart phone cameras have evolved, we are all now used to original home-made photos. As there is an honesty and personal connection with these pictures, glossy, high resolution images of beautiful people in unnatural positions, smiling unnaturally, comes over as fake, cheap and cheesey.

So unless your business sells fake, cheap, cheese, you need to hire yourself a photographer, or take your own.

Tips for taking your own photos with an iPhone.

Number 1. Take a lot of photos. For every attempt at a photo, shoot off at least twenty images. Just hold that button down, and fire away. The nature of smart phones means they are inconsistent. This will ensure one or two at least are razor sharp.

Number 2. If you have a building or shop front, take some pictures on a sunny day. Everything looks better in the sunshine. Try every angle possible. Try some close ups. Don’t stop until you have at least 200 pictures. There will be three or four good ones in there. If you are struggling to make a choice, just start removing the ones that are not good enough. When you are happy with a few of them, get some feedback from other people. An extra pair of eyes can often spot something obvious you’ve missed. Something potentially very embarrassing, or a little bit of unexpected genius.

Number 3. Faces, colleagues, people. It gives people trust to see human faces on a company website. Real people, and all their flaws. Not actors in stock photos. Again, if you can get people in sunshine, it sends a positive vibe. Take individual  portrait photos, collected, group photos, serious group photos, fun ones, an away day photo. It will all add to the personality, and overall trustworthiness of your business.

Number 4. Adding photos to a website. Presumably you have a CMS and can add your own photos to your website (or contact a web designer). Sometimes great photos just don’t work on a website. Even though they seem perfect in isolation. If you are prepared for this, then it is easier to just replace, and retry until it all hangs together. As a web designer, I’ve changed images twenty, thirty times during a design. What looks great in Photoshop, sometimes just doesn’t work on a live website. Websites are an interactive experience, with all sorts of other elements vying for attention. It either works, or it doesn’t.

Number 5. Re-touching or colouring. You can hire a graphic designer, or if you have access to Photoshop you’ll know there are endless possibilities. If you are unsure, and wish for a simple way for a bit of harmony amongst your website’s photos, try having them all in black and white. It adds an element of class as well as the uniformity of a collected style, plus we all look better in black and white…

Or you could also hire a professional illustrator to further develop your online brand.

Iain Cameron is a web designer, graphic designer and illustrator based in Copenhagen.

A belated update, Game of Thrones actor Emilia Clarke brilliantly spoofs stock photos in this video.