Time to get real

Sorry to bang on about this, but I’m still hearing designers say “our client wants to use stock images for their site because it’s cheap,” and what the client wants, the client gets. And that’s usually where the designer/client conversation regarding photography ends.

The designers tell me they’re frustrated, that they put all this effort into designing a brilliant site only to have to drag the project down by slapping cheesy grins and ever-so-serious-but-utterly-anonymous business faces all over it just to fill the gaps between the boring text. Or how about some pictures of flowers? Or a tree? Or a business man looking at a tree? That’s soooo inspirational.

Hey! Business people! Here’s the news! STOCK SUX! It makes your site look generic. It makes your service/product look exactly as enticing (ie not at all) as all your competitors. Stock has become completely blasé and unconvincing. It may be cheap, but it WILL cost you in sales. So while you’re busy chasing the bottom line, someone else is creaming off what would have been your top line. The less you pay for your photography, the fewer sales your business will make. End of.

I hate all that management-speak about top and bottom lines, but if yours is the kind of business that uses stock imagery for your branding, then you’re the kind of business person that goes to a lot of management and motivational seminars in dull hotel conference suites in Swindon to hear a “guru” tell you lots of buzz words you’ll never quite understand, but which make you think you’re at the “bleeding edge” of your envelope, box, bag of mushrooms or whatever. Yes, go thread the needle of success and let’s make this kite fly, but you’re not convincing anyone, least of all the clients you’re working so hard to win.

So to designers, I suggest turning the conversation around and asking the client if their website is meant to please them or please their clients. If they just want a pretty site to show their mums to make them proud, fine, but if they want to seriously gain market share in an increasingly competitive world, they’re going to have to feature what’s great about THEIR business, not use the same old images that everyone else is using for a million other sites.

If you hide your business behind a wall of fake images of models doing fake stuff, you send out the message that you don’t trust your real business to live up to the expectations of your clients. It also suggests you don’t trust your clients, so your clients won’t trust you. And if that happens, you lose sales.

Or as a business guru might say (if they had a clue about these things), “get real photography to get real business.”

help desk employee

Feature yourself and your colleagues in “getty-esque” style pictures, but with far more honesty and integrity than a “stock” image.

You may also like


  • JPCi Group (@JPCInfonet) September 6, 2011   Reply →

    Sometimes it’s good to get things off your chest – Lock, Stock and two smoking lenses. A good image of your own business and people in your team definitely adds the edge. It has to be a top image though. There are some pictures that should never be on a website. Thanks to professionals like Tim we can all take stock and ok not take stock but give our websites the quality finish they deserve. Of course if the copy is dull and boring, that needs fixing too – we recommend using a good copywriter like Kim and James Wareham of The Copysmith.

    Love the angle of the picture, or was the office sloping. If you look carefully you can see a chap helplessly sliding off the screen.

    • Glass Eye September 6, 2011   Reply →

      Oh yes, I fell better now 😉

      Let’s be honest, some websites should never be released at all. Utterly agree about the copywriting too. I’m always telling people that a good website needs good graphic design, text and photography. If you have that and usability, you’ve got a good website.

      It’s the help desk on the titanic, don’t you know. That chap is holding a double bass and a deck chair. All very tragic, but the calls were answered to the end. I’m not always a fan of the sloping picture, but if you’re going to slope it, slope it good. Sloping a little tends to look like sloppiness, plus this one works really well in the final design, which of course you can’t see here.

  • pabloconrad September 16, 2011   Reply →

    Great write up Tim. Eye opening and informative.

    I see too many websites that are utterly boring due to the images and the copy. These also look like they were slapped together using a template.

    • Glass Eye September 18, 2011   Reply →

      Many thanks for your appreciative comments. I suppose as long as there are designers willing to use cheap stock, and clients willing to have sub-standard sites, this situation isn’t going to change. I do feel there is improvement going on, but it is a little slow.

      I apologise for my late attention to your comment, just been rather busy shooting corporate head shots for web sites 🙂

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.