I’ve written about stock photography in my blogs a few times. Mostly about the AI, algorithms, curation, keywords or whatever drives the image search and how miserably broken it is. Honest to Pete, Timmy. It has ONE job to do. ONE JOB! Find chicken. Not beef.
And I know, if any of you have actually read those blogs, you’re probably tired of me harpin’ about it. Well, Image Aggregation Giants (IAGs), I’m tired of wastin’ time eyeballin’ hundreds and hundreds of images – so many of which are wrongly cataloged – to find just the right one.
Oh sure, I suppose I could pay a higher monthly fee for some kinda expert curation, but trust me when I tell you that I have no faith that doin’ so would actually ease my burden. Not to mention, I shouldn’t have to pay more.
I’m also fully aware that a lot of designers pooh-pooh the use of stock photography. Well to those eschewin’ that practice, I welcome you to come walk with me.
Hiring a photographer to shepherd your crew
It’s sometimes very difficult to get clients to take the time (and spend the money) to hire a photographer and organize a photoshoot. And then there are people. People make photos interestin’, or so I’m told.
But there are issues to consider. Will the people in your photos be with you as long as your website? Do you need model releases? Have your subjects been forewarned that they’re about to have their pictures taken and are they wearin’ the right clothes? Nothin’ worse than Timmy showin’ up at the office in his Big Smith hickory-striped bib overalls on the big day. Gettin’ everyone on the same page can be harder than herdin’ cats.
If you’re just havin’ your photographer take pictures of things – like equipment or products, that’s often easier. But of course, with outdoor shoots, the weather must be in a cooperative mood. Indoors, there are things like lighting, product display and a host of other factors.
The great news is, that unlike when I was doin’ this stuff, we don’t have to wait days to see the results while the Kodachrome is bein’ processed. These digital cameras have pretty much eliminated the need for a re-shoot. Don’t like the positionin’ of things? Or the lightin’? Adjust and move on.
And while we’re on the subject of digital photography, I know that Apple wants you to think you can be an award-winnin’ cinematographer just usin’ your phone. Spoiler alert – that’s probably not gonna happen. And while you can often take pretty good photos with phones these days, don’t figure it’s the end-all. I’ve seen some amazin’ images things come out of a phone, but more often, I’ve also seen amazingly bad images pop out. It still takes a trained eye to get it right.
Wow. I think I started this whole thing to talk about stock images. Clearly, I got sidetracked. If hirin’ a professional isn’t in the budget, then stock images may be your best option. If you have the time and patience to sift through the rubbish that most searches turn up, you’ll often be justly rewarded. But like I mentioned a while back, you can’t expect good results if you’re askin’ too much. Be realistic.
Think before you use ’em
Another thing I recently discovered is that you should have at least a vague idea about an image’s origin and its relevance in context. For example – I was workin’ on a project where we decided generic images from one of the IAGs would work well. One of the areas we were dealin’ with was plumbin’. And I came across the image at the top of this article.
Now I don’t know who decided – nor in what world – that a feller wieldin’ an 18” pipe wrench underneath a sink on a PVC set up like that made any sense whatsoever. Unless it was to illustrate what you should never do. I’m not a plumber, but I’ve done my fair share, and the only reason I can see for usin’ a pipe wrench in that settin’ would be for demolition. That stuff is glued together Timmy. For the record, that whole setup must have been for a piece called “DIY Plumbing Gone Horrifically Wrong.”
And I encountered dozens of images that seemed to be perfect for the things I wanted to show. Until I looked closer. That fuse panel. Not from this continent. Clearly from Europe or beyond. So many of these stock images are from outside our borders and not everyone does things like we do. I know. Hard to believe.
Particularly true with heavy equipment as well. That truck looks really cool, but the steerin’ wheel is on the wrong side. Well can’t ya just flip it in Photoshop? Yeah, but there might be unintended consequences.
Please no more “team” spelled out in scrabble tiles
I’d be remiss not to mention that I think there are a lot of stock images that are so trite, so trivial, so downright corny that they should just die. Like 97% of the “businessmen shaking hands” ones for instance. They are just plumb worn out. Way too staged. Go ahead and use your phone and a couple people from your office for this shot Timmy. Gotta be better than the cheeseballs from the IAGs. Maybe it’s just me.
Then there’s the whole “teamwork” class. Gears. Puzzles. Ropes with knots. Insects. I actually kinda like those. Bugs get it. But I understand my tastes are not yours.
Believe it or not, as much as I whine about it, I do like stock photography because I know organizin’ a photoshoot isn’t easy. And while we work with several really good photographers, every once in a while, we come across one that turns me into a gurglin’ mass of protoplasm seekin’ shelter in the broom closet. How they can miss the mark so badly is beyond me. But it happens.
Stock photography or not – given that images can make or break a website from a UI perspective, it’s really important to give them their due. And no matter what images you choose – choose well.
And speakin’ of spam, (trumpets blaring – dum da da DAH) It’s time for Brent’s Catch of the Day!
Subject: Hello, Identity theft is a type of fraudulent activity in which a criminal uses someone’s name and personal information without their permission to obtain loans or credit, impersonate them, and more. [Blah blah blah all the bad things identity thieves do went here] Please protect your information see how now you won’t believe how simple it can be! http://bit.ly/somethin’ Have a safe day!
M’kay. I was born at night, just not last night. Wuf. – No http(s) and a bitly URL. Pretty sure they’re intent on stealin’ my identity not protectin’ it. Although they’d likely pay me to take it back after a couple of days. Let’s go phishin’ Timmy!