When I was in my early 20s, I worked for an organization that published medical textbooks and newsletters.
As an editor, I was given a lot of freedom with the design of my publications, and one of the responsibilities was to choose the stock photos that were printed alongside articles or on book covers.
I’d scroll through thousands of images to find the one that perfectly illustrated “risk of falling” or “patient safety.” Most of the photos were handsome models in lab coats mugging at the camera, but some of the photos were just plain weird.
One day (when we obviously had too much time on our hands), the other editors and I decided to try to find the absolute worst stock photo of the bunch. After much debate and laughing, we finally found the winner (or loser): an elderly lady sitting in a rocking chair holding a pistol in her lap next to a table with an opened medication bottle spilling pills over the table surface…and the pills spelled out the word “DIE.”
It was really disturbing!
What was the photographer thinking when he or she set up that photo? In what publication would that image be appropriate?
That job shaped my opinion of stock photography. Those posed, unnatural photos were weird, lazy, and not what any respectable company would use for their marketing. Here are some examples of what I mean:
When I started my own business, I decided that I would never, ever stoop to the level of using stock photography. I know a lot of other life coaches, and I was disappointed whenever I saw the same sterile stock photos on their sites. In one week, I saw the same photo of a group of people (young and old, many races, and all wearing shades of gray) smiling and jumping into the air on 3 different websites.
“Wow!” I thought. “There’s nothing unique about them. Thank goodness I take my business seriously.”
So I made it a point to take all of my own photos, which resulted in this display of seriousness:
Well, at least I was having fun, and I certainly set myself apart from other coaches. I like showing my goofy side, and my clients want to show their sweet sides too.
But to be perfectly honest, it’s been exhausting sticking to my guns about stock photography. It takes extra time to plan the photo shoots, make sure Chris has time in his schedule to be my photographer, plan my outfits, and edit the photos. Did I mention that every photo on my site is taken with my iPhone? Yep, I run a sophisticated operation around here.
I was easily losing hours every week handling the photos for my website…time I could have been devoting to my clients, my family, or myself.
A few months ago, I started my online magazine, Sweet and Sage, and I decided that I would use stock photography on that website. A magazine needs high-quality images, and it was the only way I could keep up with the daily posting schedule.
And guess what?
The world didn’t stop turning. I didn’t get any hate mail. And my laptop didn’t self-destruct out of shame. Turns out, no one really cared whether I used stock photos or my own.
I’m so thankful for how my life coaching business has grown this year. And it seems like I’ve outgrown my old paradigm. I can either (1) stay small, post once or twice a week, and use my own photos or (2) post most days of the week using some stock photos.
In the end, it was a no-brainer decision. My job as your coach is to get helpful, positive, “sage” advice out there so you can make your life as sweet as possible. If stock photography on Sage Grayson Coaching is OK with you, then it’s OK with me. In fact, the photo for this post is a stock photo (not so bad, right?).
So that’s why I’m breaking my own rule—and you should too!
Is there some old way of thinking you’re holding on to out of obligation or principle? Does that way of thinking still serve you?
Stock photos have changed in the past 10 years. There are more choices out there and more people are sharing their beautiful photos simply because they love photography and not to make a profit. It’s not just cheesy models in lab coats anymore.
How have you changed from the person you were 10 years ago? Have your ideas grown and matured too?
The Editor’s Toolkit
- Free Workshop: 3 Simple Steps to Become a Productivity Superstar
- 25+ Printable Worksheets
- 6 Life Editing Ebooks
- My Favorite Books and Resources