The year I graduated from college with an illustration degree is the exact same year Apple took hold of the design world, and stock photography hit the market. Technology crushed my career choice but instantly opened a slew of fantastic opportunities in the design and advertising fields.
Stock photography was and is today, an affordable solution for agencies over hiring custom illustration. My work was devalued overnight, and as an artist and illustrator, I felt deeply offended. As I look back, stock photography was a lifesaver for companies I worked for and the customers they supported.
Great photography allows customers to see product benefits easily and better in most cases than any drawing. And it also has the power to sway opinion like nothing else, evoking emotions more powerfully than words. When you don’t have time and budget for a photo shoot, stock photography is an excellent alternative.
The Honest Truth: Imagery Affects Conversions
When talking with clients and prospects, we often refer to studies that show viewers make up their minds in 6 seconds about whether to stay on a web page. This information is important because it means key messages need to be communicated within that very short period. As users have become super-savvy and our web-centric world has shifted to mobile, the time has shortened to about 50 milliseconds (or 1/20th of a second). People make the decision to stay on or leave a site in an instant. Our brains interpret images that fast – much quicker than reading text – 60,000 times faster to be exact. Strong imagery is vital to engage viewers and persuade them to stay and view more.
By using relevant imagery, you are more likely to increase your site engagement. If you use images that follow current design trends, you gain consumer trust. By doing both, you will likely increase your site's conversion rate.
Did you know that people are more willing to trust companies that keep up with current trends? And about 79 percent of people are more likely to give their personal information to a brand they trust. That's a number you have to pay attention to.
Do I Ditch The Stock?
Today, a trend for bigger agencies is to ditch stock photography. The desire is to move away from the tired compositions found in stock. Young consumers require authenticity, visual moments that bring deeper connection with community, genuine people, and a bold use of color.
At the same time, agencies are fed up dealing with marketing amateurs breaking stock photography agreements. When an agency licenses a photo for a client project, they can find themselves in a lawsuit if the client reuses the photo or sells the image on merchandise. Sometimes it's better for agencies to buy photography outright or set up a photoshoot rather than risking someone else's bad judgment.
But this doesn’t mean stock photography will go away. There is a definite need for it, especially for businesses that aren't able to afford the cost of custom photos.
So how do you embrace the new trend without breaking the bank? Simple – you choose stock photos that emulate today's trends. (And you do your homework on legal use rights.)
The Three Bs of Better Stock Photos
Now, we know you want to ride the trend wave, but there's no reason to invest all your marketing dollars in high-end photo shoots. So, here are three ways you can improve your stock imagery choices to help you stand out and not get lost in the sea of the uninspired.
1. Be Authentic
Use imagery that reflects real life and defies common convention. Some examples include people with tattoos, dads taking care of babies or women firefighters. If you're marketing to Millennials, authenticity should be the cornerstone of your image strategy. Millennials are digital natives and can't be fooled by stock photography and staged photos. So find images that look as authentic as possible.
2. Be In The Moment
Skip the staged and worn out stock images of employees in a conference room shaking hands or of a family sitting on a freshly cut lawn in front of a house. Don't pan out on a scene to try and tell the entire story. Instead use photos of people taken up close while they're performing everyday activities. The close crop creates the experience of seeing a real person in the moment. Doing so evokes emotion. And, remember emotion is powerful.
3. Be Bold
Colorful patterns in photography are a great way to work your brand colors into the imagery. Use strong patterns as a backdrop and look for really colorful photos with organic shapes. Being bold doesn’t mean you have to use color. Black & white imagery is a huge trend today as well.
With these trends in mind, take the time to think about how your business can integrate them into your site to maximize engagement.
If you're interested in giving your brand a boost in, check out our portfolio and request a consultation today.