Die stockshots. Die.

“Who is the girl who answers your phones?”

I don’t like stockshots. Stockshots lie. They are a big fat corporate fib that no one really believes. They’re not real and they are not telling the truth about your organisation and I refuse to use them. Does that girl really answer your phones for a living or does she sashay down catwalks for Models 1?

Of course that’s a deliberately provocative paragraph and there are lots of ‘yes buts’. If your brand relies on aspiration like fashion or phones, it’s probably wise to make sure that the person wearing/holding your stuff is easy on the eye. That’s partly because usual or ordinary looking people actually stand out and distract from the product, and partly because we've been brainwashed by over a hundred years of advertising, that we want to wear and use what the beautiful people use and wear.

But that’s arse really. ‘People buy from people’ is a cliche because it’s absolutely true. When you’re selling a human product like a service, or you are claiming any kind of authenticity about your work, then yes it damn well does matter if your pictures fib. Doubly so if you’re a B2B company, selling to other businesses. Why? Because it’s all about trust dummy.

My word is my bond, but my brochure is all piffle and piss.


Who the hell are these people and what on God’s good earth are they doing?

They’re sure as hell not having a meeting like any I’ve endured. Why is he presenting so close behind their backs? Wouldn’t it be much more comfortable if he was in front of them? And what’s that graph all about? Or is it art? Is he explaining the nuance of an abstract expressionist painting? “It’s a bit Miro. Quite Mondrian. Ultimately it’s derivative and ….”

It’s tosh and no one relates to it, no one believes it and it doesn't help in anyway to sell your stuff. You’re deceiving people rather than winning their trust.


This one was thrillingly titled “business successful meeting office colleagues have”. It sounds like it was translated into Japanese and then back again by a Google Translator algorithm. And that’s what it looks like too. It’s mangled and doesn't really make sense. I could probably work out what you're trying to imply about your successful team, but it’s visual gibberish.

No one but American senators wear ties like that now do they?

They are real people, yes, but they don’t work at your office and they are not having a business successful meeting for your company. So what are they doing gurning away on your website? What are they doing for your brand?

Stockshots are expensive too and if you use more than a handful they’re far more expensive than a half decent photographer. With a photographer you get two very important things: 1. To keep and own all the shots and 2. Truth.

The very best decision I made at my former company, Novatech, was to hireJoe our in-house photographer. We’d used the talented Paul Hames, who proved that amazing imagery was possible despite our utilitarian premises, but when we needed to expand our creative team we went looking for a graphic designer.

It was another Paul, our head designer, who actually chose Joe and it was down to his photographic portfolio rather than his InDesign skills. Joe was NME’s live photographer of the year and his collection of snarling punks and sweaty stage divers was undoubtedly brilliant, but there weren’t many people building computers.

What Paul rightly spotted was that Joe could give us our own visual identity that would be far more effective than logos, and that it would be compellingly real. We sold computers, but mainly to businesses and schools. For our customers the relationship with their account manager and the knowledge that the hardware was assembled and supported in Hampshire was the key selling point.

The guts of our PCs were the same as everyone else’s but our people were ours and they were why our customers bought from us.

So Joe showed that.

Sure, you shouldn’t put the teenage apprentice with chronic acne front and centre, but I do want my technology assembled by someone who look likes they know what they’re doing, and they don’t often look like Naomi Campbell. No one does.

Of course it’s not necessary to hire an in-house photographer. There are so many talented professionals out there who not only make stockshots totally unnecessary, but also a waste of money. You might think that your offices and your staff aren't attractive enough, but as my photographer friend Paul Hames pithily explained. “You can’t polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter”.

It’s very simple really. Sure you should have a shave and comb your hair, but be yourself. Let people see behind the scenes. Let them see how you tick.

Be real. People like it much better that way.