Avoid Cliche Office-Scene Photos: Five Tips for Picking Images

You’re tasked with creating a Web page that shows people working collaboratively in an office setting. You dive into stock photos and find a familiar scene: a group of workers dressed in blue, gray, or black who are all smiling from ear to ear for no apparent reason. Or you find an image of two people of different ethnicities shaking hands in an obvious display of “diversity.”

What both of these types of imagery have in common is that they are forced—not authentic.

To find more dynamic and realistic office-setting photos, marketers should follow the following five tips.

1. Don’t be afraid of color

Unless you’re operating in the world of finance, business attire in modern workplaces is becoming more and more casual.

When choosing images, move beyond the classic blues, blacks, and grays to find exciting colors and patterns that help you stand out from the competition.

Bright colors can add some fun and whimsy to office scenes that would otherwise be static and bland. And be sure the models’ clothing is modern. Bold colors won’t be effective if they’re styles from the late 1990s.

2. Reject forced smiles

For stock image users, it’s hard to avoid the typical cheesy smiles ingrained in typical office-setting photos. Try to avoid images in which the models are laughing or smiling too hard in relation to the setting. For example, if a group is in a meeting and listening to a manager in a conference room, then they shouldn’t have a look of complete rapture.

A natural subdued smile is fine (you don’t want frowning models), but be sure there is authenticity to your images. A forced smile brings with it associations to a hard-sell by a fake-smile salesperson.

The models should be showing genuine eye contact, as well—either with other people in the image or out to the viewer’s eyes.

3. Go beyond the typical look

Assume your creative needs a group-meeting office scene. Avoid the typical stock photo of a male manager in a suit addressing a group of subordinates in a glass-enclosed conference room. Instead, find a more dynamic and natural scene such as people talking face-to-face in small groups or talking over coffee.

You also want to avoid the typical props that are found in countless office stock photos. People dressed in a generic suits holding fancy pens or brand new laptops don’t look like modern workers; they resemble props. So either avoid pictures with standard props (briefcases, laptops, tablets) or include them… but in a natural way. Tablets should have smudges and bright cases. Laptops might be adorned with stickers and could be missing a key.

The goal is to present realism so the viewer can better related to the images and the corresponding messaging.

4. Embrace people of all ages

Stock photos often include only models in their mid-twenties to early thirties, and completely ignore people over 60. For example, think about the typical model for a call center scene: usually, a very attractive woman in her twenties with a headset; she does not look at all like the typical employee.

Photos with a wider range of model ages and ethnicities add authenticity to your content without looking forced. To showcase the modern workforce, pick people age 20-70 who are charismatic and trustworthy-looking.

5. Pick dynamic images

Natural poses always look better than staged scenes with models seemingly stuck in place. If you can imagine that the photographer yelled “freeze,” then it’s not a natural photo. The very best photos capture people as they’re walking and engaging in real conversations. You want photos that evoke singular moments that are filled with action and a sense of purpose, not staged interactions between obvious strangers.

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The modern business can’t be illustrated by a picture of two people shaking hands while grinning ear-to-ear. Traditional stock photos of people with lightbulbs above their head or ones blatantly showing “success” or “teamwork” often convey the opposite feelings.

Follow these five expert tips to pick interesting stock photos that can present your office as a modern and engaging workplace, and you’ll have won the audience for your product.

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