Some of my best friends are stock photos

June 18, 2015

It seems to never end. We keep seeing coverage about stock photos coming back to haunt folks. Just today, news that Donald Trump may have hired actors to pose as supporters at his candidacy announcement surfaced. While some say that there is no such thing as bad press, these stories are proving them wrong. These campaigns are backfiring in a big way.

Last year, the “Republicans Are People Too” campaign aimed at showing the diversity of Republicans with this ad, showing that Republicans have tattoos, can recycle and assemble Ikea furniture-  just like the rest of us. It also shows a young, smiling black woman next to the words “Republicans are black.” As real as these tropes might be, the image of this woman, at least, proves false. The Daily Banter pointed out the apparently busy day this Republican woman is having, spotting her “work” as an attorney, virtual office assistant, in rehab, as a student and a mentor, among others. Stephen Colbert hilariously pointed out that the stock photo model “Republican” that drives a Prius is neither votes Republican or lives in the United States. A true stock photo fail.

If it looks like it’s something out of the satirical paper The Onion. In fact, it is.

Authenticity is everything. We talk a lot about including authentic voices in our communications work. It’s equally important to use “real people” in imagery. You can spot a stock photo from a mile away, can’t you? Your supporters can, too. We’ve become so used to these stale shots that when we see the real deal, we can’t help but notice. It’s visceral and it connects in a way that other shots don’t.

Recently in Pennsylvania, Gov. Corbett used an image of him with a variety of “supporters” on his campaign website. All it took was some savvy sleuthing to determine that this was a stock photo, too. Cue the widening gap between him and the voters he’s trying to win. In California, Modern Family fans spotted actor Efrain Figueroa posing as local business owner in an Anti-Prop 45 tv ad. The ad seems false and misleading once you realize this is not a real person.

So, how can you be sure that your photos are connecting in a real way? Adweek has some great tips to keep you in check. There is also this amazing stock photo site created by cancer patients and survivors- real people– with the proceeds going to cancer treatment. You can also check out our tips on some alternative stock photo sites to bookmark for your next photo hunt.

Krista Meyer