6 traps marketers should avoid when selecting stock photos

Images are essential for modern marketing campaigns—and stock photos can be a necessary evil. Make sure you don’t sink your message with these gaffes.

Not every photo is worth a thousand words—and some can do serious damage to your marketing campaign.

When selecting photos, many marketers turn to stock photography databases that have a wide selection of generic photos for a modest fee. However, you must choose your photos wisely.

Avoid these stock photo mistakes to protect your reputation and your campaign:

Image via: Dragonimages/ Dreamstime

1. Reinforced stereotypes

It may feel tempting to assume that an image of a manager, doctor or CEO must be someone of a certain age, but that could scare off your millennial customers. This same concept applies to gender, race, religion and more.

Reinforcing cliché stereotypes through the depiction of models in your photos is the last thing you want, and your customers will make that known if you fall into this trap. Make people of all ages, races and genders feel well-represented with a diverse selection of models in your images. Your diverse customer-base will appreciate it.

Image via: Mykola Kravchenko / Dreamstime

2. Fake smiles and forced expressions

Your customers find fake, forced smiles just as irritating as bad poses. Would you buy something from anyone who has a cheesy smile glued to their face?

No matter how “cheery” the model in the photo looks, this type of photo fails to engage the audience in an authentic manner and doesn’t invite people to trust the brand. Search for photos where models smile naturally and don’t make you want to roll your eyes at first glance.

Image via: Edhar Yralaits / Dreamstime

3. Static, posed Images

You know the look: statue-like people, frozen in forced handshakes, fake conversations, acting out an activity without much enthusiasm. This will never be convincing. Find photos where models seem to be moving and speaking naturally. Images of real-life moments help to draw your customers in and give them something relatable. You want real people.

Image via: Wollertz / Dreamstime

4. Animals in unnatural poses

Everyone loves a good dog photo, right? Marketers often use photos of animals because—let’s face it—they are cute! But they also can draw attention in bad ways. In 2018, PETA pushed stock companies to ban images of primates in unnatural poses. It’s best to be careful when choosing images of animals and avoid that dressed up penguin—even if it is adorable.

Image via: Alisa Ustyuzhanina / Dreamstime

5. The pursuit of perfection

It’s tempting to use that perfectly composed image, but it is often best to stay away from technically flawless photos. Sometimes, it’s the defects that make something look special and unique. Advertising is associated with perfection—and people are trying to avoid advertising, so they will avoid your message as well. Go for natural and authentic images that will resonate with your audience instead.

Image via: MNStudio / Dreamstime

6. Fearing creativity

Stock images are “basic” by definition. They aren’t personalized to your campaign or brand.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t make the image your own with some Photoshop magic. Don’t be afraid to place your logo in an interesting spot within the image or test out a new background that better fits your campaign. Taking every image without any modification can be a missed opportunity; personalization and customization give you a chance to take great work and make it even more fitting for your brand.

Are there any photo mistakes you would add to the list?

Serban Enache is the founder and CEO of Dreamstime.

(Image via)


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