Generic Stock Photos and Clip Art- Stop the Blandness!
First, a note- I often worry that blogging more about things that bother me rather than fluffier posts about life and marketing will make me look like an old crank. I stopped worrying about that- as long as I’m providing a solution, such posts have value to some people, I hope. So here goes…
Every once in a while as I flip through posts in Google Reader, I am assaulted over and over by images that offend me. By this I do not mean, shocking, inappropriate or obscene images. I do not mean ugly are provocative either. I mean bland. I mean images with only the most tenuous relation to the topic- or an all-too-obvious pun connecting them to the content. I mean… generic stock images and clip art.
For example; If you want to talk about making something more “sexy,” force the analogy with a generic sexy image like the one to the right:
Nothing like covering your intellectual laziness and lack of cleverness by exposing it, right?
Here’s another– the smiling faces that mean to portray a mood, or illustrate a point, but when overused just look fake (because they are). I may be crankier than most, but they put me in a mood not intended by most authors:
Clipart is overused, though at times it can effectively illustrate a point. As with anything trite, however, it loses meaning pretty quickly.
OK, you get the picture. So, what to do? We are not all artists who can draw our own figures. The solution? Think about expressing yourself by finding unusual, compelling, even provocative images in places that others don’t look, or that have an ever-changing supply of content. Look at this one I found through Flickr advanced search:
I love using Flickr, especially as the advanced search lets you look for photos whose owners have given permission, through Creative Commons licensing, to use them royalty free. More importantly, I love using them because it is easier to find unusual photos and graphics that are less fake-looking and not overused. Just sharpen up your keyword-searching skills and you will have an bottomless well of material.
I also applaud using your own photos. If you are like me, they may look less professional, but that can be a point in your favor– people know it is from you, and, as with the Flickr searches, they are photos you picked for a reason, not from some finite set of glossy stock images. If you happen to be a good photographer, all the better. For example, if I wanted to do some silly riff on the 12 Days of Christmas, I have 2 turtle doves ready to go:
I’m not saying don’t use stock images or clip art. Don’t let anybody tell you what to do (don’t let me tell you not to let anybody… never mind). If it fits, you’ll know; use it. If it’s trite, boring, or lazy, it’ll show.
OK, one last image: Who will be the next to use this when complaining about unwanted electronic correspondence?
ADDING: Tell me what you think in comments below, and link to examples if you like. I’ll check my comment moderation folder if my spam program gets all uppity.
* By the way, the top image is courtesy of Ike Pigott (Who the Heck is Ike?); the other photos were taken from blogs that did not credit the original sources (huh?) and I’d rather not single out the blogs because by and large they do things I love as well.