Ze Frank, executive VP of video at Buzzfeed, must know the value of images. His job depends on it. To explain the power of images and memes, Frank points to the Internet-favorite Captain Picard face-palm photo, saying it’s the 21st century riff on “a picture is worth a thousand words.” The image perfectly articulates frustration and dismay. No words needed. The images you choose can consciously communicate many different messages, but there’s one message they all take part in conveying unconsciously: whether your brand is authentic. And thus we enter the battle between original vs. stock photos.

Using original photos promotes the authenticity of your business. And authenticity builds trust. Prospects can identify with real employees and real customers. Especially powerful is the use of customer photos or videos for case studies and testimonials. One of our clients, Guardian Nurses Healthcare Advocates, has done this to great effect. Nothing company leaders could say is as effective as seeing and hearing their clients tell stories about the nurse advocates who helped them after life-changing medical diagnoses.

Using stock photos of representative clients and/or employees undermines authenticity, even though there is a lot of good stock photography available. In some cases it is necessary to protect privacy. In other cases it is to convey the diversity of your client base. But too often, stock photos are chosen because they may cost less than hiring a photographer; they can make a company appear larger, wealthier, or more diverse than it is; and they eliminate the hassles of dealing with actual people who might become former employees or ex-clients.

Prospects perusing a website may be justified in wondering if the testimonials are authentic when the customer photos are clearly fake. They may be equally justified in wondering why the company wants to project the image that it employs only model-pretty people who have a side gig posing as employees of other companies.

  • DO use quality photos of real customers and employees, whenever possible.
  • DON’T base your stock vs. photographer decision on perceived cost, as the price of stock photos adds up quickly and a photographer can shoot dozens of great photos in a half-day session.
  • DON’T expect the photographer to plan what photos to shoot; it’s your responsibility.
  • DO consider a full-day shoot if you have a lengthy shot list; it’s a better value than having to pay the photographer to come back for another half day.

Need help with design for your business website, publication or marketing collateral? Call Kim Landry at 484-829-0021 or email [email protected].

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