Millennials Are Done With Cheesy Stock Images

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Stock photos are, in some ways, a necessary evil that we all love to hate. These images are frequently mocked for their sterile, forcibly inclusive office scenes in which people carry out everyday tasks with fake smiles and dead eyes.

Don’t let the smile fool you. She’s dead inside.

And the corporate world is hardly the only environment represented in stock images. You can find perfectly awkward images featuring all manner of human, machine, and animal activity. Technavio’s collection of stock imagery features not one, but three pictures of furniture, several forklifts, chewing gum, and a door stopper. Compelling stuff.

The description on this one is “Bold Young Man Kissing Woman With Head Made of Watermelon”.

We just have one question: Why?

Vince Vaughn elevated stock images to a comedic medium last year, as a promotional stunt for his otherwise unsuccessful film, Unfinished Business. In promoting the film, Twentieth Century Fox joined forces with iStock to create idiotic stock images by photoshopping cast members into existing photos.

But stock photos aren’t used solely for our enjoyment, or even just to dress up an ad, article, or webpage. Our brains process visual information differently than text, and we take a lot of information from visual cues.

For instance, a web page with lots of green or images of leaves might indicate an environmental agenda. Images of people in well-cut suits usually invoke a corporate feeling, and the tech sector is overwhelmingly associated with the colors blue or red.

Besides indicating to a potential customer what you’re all about, simply including an image is much more likely to get your ad/blog/Tinder profile (maybe?) noticed in the vast expanses of the internet. Jeff Bullas says that 60% of consumers are more likely to contact a business when an image shows up the search result. Similarly, according to a (relatively unscientific, but still interesting) Buffer study, Tweets with images receive 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites, and 150% more retweets than those without.

Consumers were 90% more likely to view our report on the stock images market after reading this blog.

This may or may not be an accurate statistic.  

These undeniable benefits are resulting in growth in the global stock (or still) image market. The market was valued at $2.85 billion in 2015 and is going to climb to $4.09 billion by 2020.

Unintentionally comedic stock images are driving demand for authenticity

Millennials engage with brands more extensively and more personally than older generations, and it takes meaningful stories to catch their attention. This generation also has a much more sensitive bullshit meter when it comes to online content, so doing away with sterile, contrived images in favor of something more realistic helps create lasting impressions and better brand engagement.

In response, vendors like Shutterstock, Getty Images, and Corbis are adding rawer, more candid images on stock photo sites that are more appropriate for social marketing.

Some vendors are even sourcing user-generated content. Olapic, for instance, sources still images from consumers through Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. It then receives permission from the uploader for brand use, which increases the value of the photos and ultimately drives market growth.