Is your marketing stuck in stock photography hell?

Stop using boring stock photo cliches on your website and marketing materials with these ways to break out of stock photo hell.
A cartoon devil wearing a camera around its neck and giving a thumbs up. Background: Bee Digital Marketing colours

What have these images all got in common?

‘Laughing teacher leaning over student at desk.’

‘Happy kids of all ethnicities leaping into the air as one.’

‘Classroom of well-behaved children quietly getting on with their work.’

They’re all stock photographs.

And they’re all fake.

Marketing is a hungry beast. And stock photography is fast food.

At Bee Digital we’re always making things, writing things, and coding things.

Every campaign demands imagery of some form. Our clients’ market is schools and educators which probably means, at some point, someone’s going to want to show a picture of a classroom.

The challenge is how to best to do that.

Bee Digital Marketing showing four examples of boring stick imagery from classrooms
Lovely stock photos but they're not fooling anyone.

Say NO to stock photography (most of the time)

It’s easy to default back to costly, dull generic stock photos instead of thinking of a more creative/unique approach to tell your story.

The problem with stock photography is it limits the impact of your marketing. It doesn’t tell YOUR story; it merely reflects it.

By all means consider photos if they are a) users with your product in a real life setting or b) social media user generated type images and video.

In the same way we think you should build your own email list not buy one, we believe owning your own image library will add unassailable value to your marketing.

Stock should be your last call, not your first.

Stock photography cliche of a classroom
An example of a cliched stock photograph of a classroom from Bee Digital Marketing

Alternatives to stock photography

Create your own image archive

Commission a photographer to visit a couple of your school customers and take loads of natural looking photos/videos of teachers and pupils using your product.

Budget £500-2000 and you’ll end up with a bank of unique school photo and video stock to last you ages.

But remember images of children require permission due to safeguarding, so consult with the school’s photography policy before booking anything.

Get authentic images

If your budget doesn’t stretch to hiring professional photographers then visit your school customers and use your mobile phone for quick interviews, on the go videos, and your product being used.

  • Do kids make things with your product? Photograph their finished projects and ask them all about it on video.
  • Are teachers using your product to record data? Sit with them while they’re on it and ask them to explain how they use it day to day.

The power of an authentic video will trump a glossy high end video on social media.

Reach out to your community

Do parents communicate with the school using your app? Is your curriculum software used at home as well as school?

Ask your parent users to upload video of them using your product to their Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook feeds with a special hashtag.

Then approach them to use share their video with the rest of your userbase (with appropriate permission and attribution, of course).

User generated content is extremely compelling. Your product being used, unfiltered and raw, is as far away from boring stock photography as you can get.

So gather as much as you can.

Is a stock photograph the only option?

Stock has its place if used well and in support of the story you want to tell.

But consider using alternate image types to narrate your story, in surprising or quirky ways, with illustrations.

When building your adverts or landing pages do A/B testing on variations using abstract images, illustrations, and photographic images.

Bonus idea: Give it a first-person touch

Did you know that if you show a hand touching your product from a first-person perspective, people are more likely to buy it?

It’s so simple and makes perfect sense, right?

If users spend 2.5 seconds with a Facebook ad they view via desktop, and 1.7 seconds on mobile, with only 0.25 seconds of exposure needed to recall what the content is, then putting your product into context is key.

The reason is psychological: we see the hand as our own hand and we associate this with ownership; adding value to the product.

Thomas McKinlay explains the impact of using hands this way in ads which is based on experimental findings:

“[People] Who saw a GIF of a hand touching (vs laying next to) a sweater, liked the sweater 9.4% more, were 16.3% more likely to buy it, and were willing to pay 14% more for it.”

So if you’re commissioning photography or snapping your own shots get some with your product being handled:

✋ The ad must be from a first-person POV, giving the impression it’s the viewer’s hand.
✋ The hand must touch or interact with the product in a natural way.
✋ It doesn’t need to exactly match the viewer’s hand; it can belong to a different gender, skin tone, or it can even be animated.

Ultimately the aim of your landing page/Ad and what would best convey your message to your target audience should guide what sort of media/imagery you choose.

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