girls in the grass?: just say ‘no’ to stock people photography.

Some say the photo trend of planking is being replaced by stocking — where people simulate a common stock photo and upload the images side by side. Like any good satire, StockingIsTheNewPlanking touches on a painful truth: Way too many people are way too dependent on stock photos of people in cliche poses.

Admittedly, the “girls under trees” shot seen on so many campus websites is a running gag in the higher education community. But at least those are real photos. Far worse are the ubiquitous clip-art manifestation that is “girls in grassy fields using laptops.” I’ve worked at a college with its fair share of grass for 10 years and have never seen a girl with a laptop sprawled amid the greenery. Go ahead, search Google Images under “woman laptop grass” and you’ll find enough shots in fields to cover the earth’s surface. Shoes appear to be optional.

Or consider the “jumping for joy” shot. Does anyone find this exhilarating? Or is it just cliche, if not ludicrous.

If you don’t have a photographer on staff, consider taking your own darn pictures. I know it’s not easy to get the perfect shot, or the right people in it, for some uses. If you work at a college, you’d be amazed how many good shots your students can take … and may have already taken (of authentic situations) and wouldn’t mind letting you use. But if you do a big promotional piece with grinning folks in a stock photo, and your competitors roll something out with the exact same image, how dumb does that look? Or, who knows, maybe you’ll find that big photo on the front of that slick brochure being parodied by some stocking folks.

It really all comes back to one of the biggest currencies of the web today: Authenticity. I’d prefer a real photo that may not be the most technically outstanding over a carefully manufactured — but stale, cliche and generic — stock photo every time.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “girls in the grass?: just say ‘no’ to stock people photography.

  1. Stocking is the new planking. Too awesome, and yet completely sad at the same time.

    One way that I look for inspiration for campus photos is to wade through Flickr/Pinterest, saving any photography as inspiration for things that might work for us onto a dedicated pinboard. (Our student body is teensy and I’ve not come across anyone that has posts any authentic usable campus photography … yet.)

    That being said, I kind of like the jumping shots.. so long as they’re not stock. We had an awesome one taken at our last photoshoot as a deviation from our standard #studentsinfrontofoldbuildings photo… building as the background, jumping students in the fore.

    Also not ok: an authentic photo that doesnt fit with the context in which it’s being used (ie – a jumping shot for your history program’s website is kind of weird). Academics are awesome and all, but trying to ‘fun it up’ just comes across as awkward and like trying too hard.

  2. Pingback: links for 2011-09-08 « innovations in higher education

  3. And really, is there much difference between stock photos and carefully posed photos taken at your institution by professional photogs? Neither are terrible authentic.
    A nice post remind us to avoid cliches at all cost!

  4. Gack, I meant to say “terribly authenetic” above.

  5. Sigh. I’m going to stop trying to spell correctly for the rest of the day.

  6. Tim Nekritz

    CHRIS: That was pretty much how my whole week went.

  7. Tim Nekritz

    COURTNEY: Your idea of looking around at photos for inspiration is actually pretty darn brilliant. And good to create/recreate situations involving your actual students, so at least it is relevant.

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