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Using Stock Photography: A Cautionary Tale

The growing popularity and widespread availability of stock photography sites like and has put the likes of Getty Images and Tony Stone on their ears right along with a great many high quality independent professionals. You can’t blame it all on the stock photo sites. The issue has been compounded by camera phones and flip cameras: everyone things they can take pictures. Right along with the proliferation of images has come a lowering of standards in what viewers will accept as quality. 75 DPI and even blurry images are sometimes acceptable, for the right use.

But once you leave Facebook, businesses still demand professional-like quality but for a beer budget price and that is how we all landed on Don’t get me wrong: I use and several other inexpensive stock photo sites. But it is truly a buyer beware scenario. The risk is that EVERYONE else is using, too, and thus you’re all using the same images. Case in point: the guy.

the istockphoto dude

Now be honest: how many different times have you seen and/or used this image? I swear he is everywhere. And as we all know, he can’t possibly work for everyone so now folks have to confess: they used stock photography. 

Stock photos are great but if you’re picking images for the home page of your website (or any other highly trafficked or read location) do you really want an image that everyone else is using? Absolutely not. This is your brand and you need to treat it as such.

So if your web designer talks you into the idea of “faces” on your home page because “viewers are drawn to faces,” do me a favor: check the download popularity of the recommended image and at least try not to select ones that thousands of other users have already picked.

Alternatively, try to break away from the idea of faces on your website. Amazingly stock images of products, locations and the like aren’t nearly as recognizable as stock.

But if you really must have those faces: consider budgeting for original photography. Once you get past the sticker shock, you’ll come to appreciate the value in images that you and only you own. And that way when you put them on your trade show booth, you won’t have to worry about seeing the same image on a booth down the aisle, like I did at a show last night. I think it was this one.

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