Alternatives to bad stock images

Alternatives to bad stock images





Alternatives to bad stock images


Tony Hallett
Managing director

Tony set up Collective Content in 2011 so brands can more easily become publishers and tell stories. This built on 15 years in media, from reporter to publishing director at Silicon Media Group, CNET Networks and CBS Interactive.

Are there alternatives to using bad stock images with your content or is “bad” just a matter of taste? What do you think?

A man struggles with work/life balance
Sometimes stock imagery is great and other times… less so.

To expand, do many—most?—organisations fall back on clichéd stock imagery because they think it’s good? My short answer is, ‘Partly so, yes’.
But if the rise of content marketing, meaning a flood of content of all qualities that enters an already crowded media mix, has taught us anything, it’s that details matter.

We’ve spoke previously on these pages about using images with proper attribution (Getting Creative Commons, commercially). We recommend using services such as Photopin and then choosing an appropriate Creative Commons licence to use images responsibly.

But as plenty of other places will tell you, you can either say, ‘To hell with all that, let’s just scrape the internet!’—which we think is bad, for all kinds of reasons—or use an expensive stock photography service. You can also use a number of sources where images don’t even necessarily need a credit (like this list or this one). In short, anyone creating content now has lots of image choices.

Newscred’s Liz Bedor in the summer published a great post comparing the hackneyed old way of doing images and what we might call the new way. You know this type of thing when you see it and, especially for content that is a bit conceptually abstract, this really helps.

If you don’t have the good image gene, then there’s quite possibly this rule of thumb: If the image looks like it came free with PowerPoint, then give it a miss (even in PowerPoint); if it looks like it came from one of your favourite magazines or Instagram then you stand a chance.

Ironically, Vince Vaughn and stars from the comedy “Unfinished Business” were posed in bad pastiche versions of stock photography to promote that film—the film-makers knowing it’d be great promotion because they’re funny. The irony is either that these images are so bad they’re good… or that the film itself wasn’t that good. Your pick.

The other option we haven’t talked about is creating your own images—photography, illustrations and so on. That might not be easy for some, but at least on your own website and other assets it’s what people want to see. The guys at Hinge Marketing nailed why good photography is important. While there is a bar to creating your own images—either by doing it yourself or hiring a professional photographer—we’d encourage clients to try.

We’ve said before that the word ‘authenticity’ is over-used. But with images, the authentic often trumps a professional-but-bland approach. Give it a try.

*photo credit: Image by 51581 from Pixabay (license)
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