Stock photography is one way of getting you message across vividly and at a much lower price than commissioning original images. The problem is that, in the past, most readily accessible stock or royalty free images have been a little arbitrary or second rate. The scenarios shot can be so generic they become almost meaningless or cliché.
The way that people are presented and tagged - 'working woman' say - conjure up images that really don't reflect the kinds of roles and mores that are present today, rather than 20 years ago when it was enough to show a woman in a suit with glasses and a phone - it is broad brush-stroke stuff. But it has a consequence. It shows women in the workforce in a way that stereotypes or idealises in a negative way - which reflects back on the brand or business that might thoughtlessly promote the image.
Stock images can be invaluable but they can also be lazy and promote tropes. Some image libraries are become more adept at serving the demands of the market. Getty Images have launched a push to promote a curated selection "celebrating powerful images of women, girls and the communities who support them," The images are much better than they were - but one of the strategies of image libraries is to repackage and spin their catalogues.
If you search Getty Images for 'tattoo hipster woman' there's no shortage of pictures. Maybe in 10 years time we'll be wondering where the images of women without circus tent tattoos are?
Using Stock Images creatively - 3 Golden rules.
1. Begin with an idea.
This is a pretty good rule for most communications. If you have a clueless message and add a meaningless image then you will get a nil or negative response. Don't fill space in a layout with a random image.
2. Avoid tropes and clichés
The reason clichés become hackneyed is because everybody uses them. Ask yourself if there is another way of expressing your idea without resorting to a literal image of your imagined end user looking empowered (for example). If you are looking for a visual idea to illustrate your message think in terms of metaphors and similies - what is it like? Stock images will never be exact anyway - you might as well be playful.
3. Shop around
There are lots of stock libraries. Look through Tumbler and Flickr, you might find an image you can licence - sometimes borrow (though make sure you observe the copyright rules - even Creative Commons isn't a free for all).
With photography so accessible these days it might also be useful to search photographers sites - they may have an image you like that you can license - or hire them to shoot something original - it could cost you less than you think.
This blog is a notepad of contemporaneous and sometimes extemporaneous thoughts about creativity, strategy and ideas.