Stock Photos: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly.

By Amber Page

We know you’ve seen them (and probably rolled your eyes).  The stock photos in the training you’re doing, on the side of the road on billboards, the social media ad campaigns.  They’re lame.  Point blank.  From the pictures of women laughing while eating salads to the forced smiles of stock models posing heroically in police officer uniforms in front of parked police cars, there is something just off about them.

So, if you think they’re bad, imagine the graphic designers’ feelings when they have no choice but to use them.  There are so many factors that go in to choosing the perfect photo to accompany an article, training video, or an ad campaign.  The problem comes when there is a limited resource for images to use.  Most of these stock photos are taken by freelance photographers that sell these photos to stock websites to try to achieve unique photos that no other photographer has.  They have very little access to photographing realistic fields, such as law enforcement.

Let’s dive deeper using the aforementioned field of law enforcement.  Say you are a police officer doing a training series on serving warrants.  You have to take the training because it’s a state requirement to be completed every year.  And you’re watching this training and see this image.

It’s just the worst, isn’t it? The uniform is so obviously just thrown together from what looks like bits of leftover Halloween costumes and bad photo shopped patches.  Oh, wait you thought that was the worst?  Think again my friend.  Feast your eyes on this:

Who thought this was a good idea?  Not you or me certainly.  But someone at a stock photo company obviously thought it was good enough to purchase the rights to it and throw it up on their site.

This is the struggle that training video producers deal with on a daily basis.  There are decent options, but they are pretty few and far between.  And I am sure that the end users are just as tired of seeing the same few good images being used over and over again as we are of using them.

The good news is that new photos are uploaded every day.  Bad ones, yes, ugly ones certainly, but also good ones.  There is hope, and designers are always searching.  We want to produce content that is engaging and that the end user can connect with.  Our biggest hope is that the training you see inspires you, and that you connect with it and benefit from it.  The ultimate goal of training is that you learn something and the designer is sifting through hundreds of thousands of images to ensure that goal is attained with every training they design.