We all know that royalty-free stock photography has become an incredibly powerful resource for today’s design industry. The reasons for its popularity are obvious. Beyond being low cost, the libraries are web-based, making them both easily accessed, as well as searchable. Add to this that a single website can house millions of images, and you can see why designers and clients alike having been looking to these resources more frequently. And while using them in acceptable ways (such as supporting a piece of body content) is fine and will be a continued practice, here is a quick case study on why you should REALLY AVOID using royalty-free stock for any of your primary brand images.
Recently Google (who has been toying with the technology for years in products like Google Goggles) added the ability to use their image search not only by typing in descriptive text, but also by uploading a sample image and finding the closest visual matches on the web. I am not trying to explain how the technology actually works or all of its implications (as an example, Facebook can now auto tag your friends in photos), but rather bringing to light the abundant overuse of cheap stock photography in B2B marketing. So if you’re going to use cheap stock here’s why you DON’T WANT to use it to represent your important brand elements.