Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

What's Wrong with This (Stock) Picture?

I have come to rely on stock houses as a supply of new and interesting business-related images, but there has been some amazingly useless photography released lately.

I do corporate design. I enjoy clean lines, solid fields of blue and Univers in all its straight-faced glory. Its not that I can’t design commercial logos or put together product packaging (because I have), but I am vaguely more comfortable building brochures for corporate decision-makers, or designing websites that don’t scream their message with a garden of spinning, blinking yellow starbursts.

To that end, I consider corporate business collateral my specialty, and I am constantly searching for unique and innovative photography that brings to life blocks of marketing speak and collections of pie charts. Because most of my clients cannot afford custom photography, I have come to rely on stock houses as a supply of new and interesting business-related images.

What started as a relatively small movement with simple titles from Comstock and Photodisc has quickly spawned derivative and increasingly specialized titles like “CEO’s,” “Business Meetings,” “Lose the Suits” and “Business Around the World.”

Unfortunately, despite the seemingly endless selection, there has been some amazingly useless photography released lately. I give you the following example: the image is color-saturated and has two of the silliest models I have ever seen.

weird models

Have you ever seen people like this in your place of business? A waif in a nightgown might pop up in an ad agency somewhere, but a frightenly skinny Manhattan model with enough makeup to keep Revlon in business for years and hair like Aladdin Sane-era David Bowie typing on a computer that’s not even turned on? Who are the art directors overseeing these shoots? And speaking of questionable art direction, who ever heard of serious business people using a clamshell iBook?

ibook goons

I get the impression these stock companies (and there are a lot these days) are struggling to create this illusion of an ultra-hip, fantasy workplace where everyone is twenty-four, thin, dressed in $1500 outfits at a $30,000-year position and so angry and serious about getting their damn job done that they’ll barely stop to pose for a crappy, semi-focused and ultimately useless photo of them frowning at their laptop.

This effort at illusion becomes even more obvious when stock companies start releasing titles striving for authenticity like Real Office and um … Real Office.

Please. We need realistic people in realistic situations. I don’t mind the cringe-worthy GQ-ready models above, but at least put them in a situation my clients and their customers find believable. I am too embarrassed to use 50% of the stock I own because it is just ridiculous, and it does not, much to the chagrin of these stock companies, make the pieces I am designing any more upscale or classier.

commentary + criticism


wrote the following on Sunday December 12, 2004

That’s exactly the same for “Real people photos”... Hundreds happy families with cheerfull faces. No anger, no sadness, no problems… just try to make a no-drugs brochure with that!