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Overused Stock Photos Are Killing Your Brand

Vince Vaughn and his costars caused a marketing sensation when they posed for a set of cheesy stock photos as a part of a brilliant promotion for his movie, Unfinished Business. The photos are hilarious, and they show just how ridiculous overused stock photos can be sometimes. I’m sure you know the “call me I’m friendly” telemarketer. The “sampler of multi-ethnic, but not exactly culturally diverse” boardroom shot. And of course, who could forget the classic intent look into the camera?

While stock photo has been a blessing for small businesses, it can also cheapen your brand by making you look like everyone else. You might think that you don’t have enough time to go searching the web for a low-cost, high-quality image, but it actually takes a lot less effort than trying to change the perception that can come from using generic photos. Here are some alternatives to googling “happy business team” and using the first image that pop up:  

  1. Take your own photos. With a smartphone camera and the right Instagram filter, you can have your own high-quality photos, hassle free! Keep an eye open for opportunities to snap a shot you may be able to use in the future. Random objects, food, and nature are all commonly used in the world of stock photos. The three images below were all shot using my iPhone and some editing. 
  2. Use a professional photographer when possible. Some photographers make their works available under Creative Commons, like what you would find on Flickr. These creative works can often be used for commercial purpose. Each photo will tell you how that work is licensed, so just make sure to read the fine print before using. I usually thank the photographer in the comments underneath their photo and let them know where I’m using their work. If you post a photo online, link it back to the original source. Other photographers have sites like Gratisography or Jay Mantri, where all copyrights have been waived and all photos are free for the taking - no questions asked, no attribution required.
  3. Find fresh photos. If you’ve seen it everywhere, pass. I’ve listed some of my favorite sites below to get you started in finding fresh, new photos, all under Creative Commons Zero. Simply download the photo and copy, modify, or distribute however you’d like, without getting permission. 
  • Unsplash – Beautiful, high-resolution pictures are uploaded by people all around the world, all onto a clean, user friendly website. Unsplash lets you search by word or category, making it super easy to find what you’re looking for. And if all that isn’t enough, 10 new photos are published every 10 days. 
  • StockSnap.io – A diverse, picturesque collection of non-cheesy photos, StockSnap.io is a great spot for all your stock photo needs. Hundreds of high-quality images are added weekly, and you’re given the option of sorting photos by date, trending, views, likes, and downloads. 
  • Pixabay – I’ve mentioned this site before in a previous blog post, but it’s worth mentioning again. Currently, there are over 1.5 million high-quality photos, vectors, videos and art illustrations to choose from, along with personal picks by the Pixabay team. The categories here let you narrow down your search to anything from sports and people, to emotions and education. If you’re so inclined, you can return the favor by uploading and sharing your own pictures to be used by the rest of the public domain! 
  • Pexels – Hundreds of thousands of high-quality free stock photos are available for use with new photos being added daily. Each photo is tagged so you can search with keywords to find the perfect one! 
  • CanStockPhoto– Providing professional, affordable stock images since 2004. You can either purchase credits or a subscription to download photos. 
  • Deposit Photos – 80 million professional royalty-free, stock photos, vector images, and videos are available! This is not free site, but it's well worth the investment. They even have an app they best photos are always at your fingertips. 
  • Canva – This web-based design software allows you to create beautiful graphics. Free stock images come with the free and paid versions, but they also have images available to purchase at a very reasonable rate.

So now you have no excuse! Stop using cheesy, generic, low-quality overused stock photos and start building your brand. Let us know if we missed any of your favorites in the comments below!

About Adrianne Machina

Through marketing training, consulting and copywriting, I help companies find their focus and harness their authentic power to create an extraordinary impact. 


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