Our philosophy on using stock photography is that it’s a lot like using the restroom at a Greyhound bus station. You can use it, sure, but only if there’s really no other option – and let’s be honest – sometimes there isn’t.

Businesses often see stock photos as an easy way to cut extra costs on their marketing. The reason is that they’re usually free or relatively cheap and they get the job done, even though deep inside you know that it’s not exactly what you wanted. It’s the difference between settling for a Michelina’s frozen dinner or eating, you know, actual food. That’s why we end up with 4 billion websites featuring images of happy, young, attractive business people on headsets.

My real job is selling poisoned Tang to war orphans.

So how do you avoid using stock photography that makes you look exactly like everybody else?

Are you ready for this?

Don’t be like everybody else.

Here are some tips on being yourself.

1. Focus on authenticity

For starters, be as real as possible. Do you really work in an office that looks like this, with people who have clearly been sterilized and plucked out of a FOX reality special?

Oh hey, didn’t see you there. Yeah, we’re just getting ready for our quarterly projections meeting in the bat cave.

Of course not, nobody does. Try to avoid unnatural and downright creepy photos by looking for candid shots of people just being in a natural environment. Better yet, try something with no faces at all. Remember that users know what cheesy stock photography looks like. They can spot the fakes, so don’t use them in the first place.

2. Relevance is important

Keep your photos on topic and try not to stray too far away from the subject at hand. You don’t want something completely unrelated or outdated, lest you end up having to explain yourself like Sheldon Cooper playing pictionary.

3. Avoid the cliches

Nothing says ‘I refuse to put any effort into my visual identity’ more than the standard ‘happy hearty handshake’ photo we’ve all seen a bajillion times. If you want to start building trust and credibility as an industry leader, try something with a little more originality.

Congratulations on enslaving the human race, Jim.

4. To the second page – AND BEYOND!

Stock sites are like mini search engines. They’re designed to display the most popular images first. That means that when you choose the first picture in your search results, you’re grabbing the same images as a whole bunch of people before you. Everyone else has the same idea. By digging a little deeper, you can often find some pretty cool gems that can be the difference between something generic and something magnificent.

Bonus tip: Look for photos that are text-friendly

If you’re planning to use your stock images as a background for a piece of content, be sure to look for something that isn’t too busy. If you need to overlay text on top of the image, something with more empty space and solid colors should help do the trick.

Our favourite resource for stock photography is a well-known site called Shutterstock. They even have their own set of tips to help you find the right stock photography. Not only that, but they also have a great pool of maps, video clips, icons and more.

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