Hold the Cell Phone to the Other Ear, Baby!

Okay, so the title should really be “How much is that cheap photo costing you?” but the one I chose in its place paints an accurate picture as well…

We’re talking about a cheap, cheap, cheap form of images called microstock. Microstock photographers can see as little as 20 cents or less per image license so they have to make up for it with quantity, quantity, quantity…  Thus, “Hold the cell phone to the other ear baby,” as the microstock photographer works to milk several hundred  “unique” images out of an 8 hour photoshoot.

About a year ago I wrote a post illustrating how several websites had used the same microstock image as an integral part of their branding and how in an age where marketing noise is at an all time high, this is the wrong direction to get noticed and get more business.

What I wrote then has now been proven out by a scientific study.

The New York Times reports that Jakob Nielsen, a Web site consultant and author of a number of books on website design and interface developed some eye-tracking software to track what visitors look at.

A study he recently completed reports that stock photos on websites are completely ignored by visitors. The “feel good images that are purely decorative” are ignored, as are the generic stock photos of people.

In contrast, the study found that when the photos were of real people related to what the article was about, or actual photos of the product being sold, that the images captured and held the readers attention.

The Times concluded with the following words:

Mr. Nielsen concludes with some advice to those using the Web to hawk products or content: “Invest in good photo shoots: a great photographer can add a fortune to your Web site’s business value.”

I would take it one step farther.  I believe the generic microstock photos of the smiling woman with the headset, or the business handshake, or worse, the groups of office professionals giving the thumbs up sign do more harm than good.  The first problem is they make you blend in with the crowd.  Many of these images and their look alike clones have been licensed hundreds of thousands of times.  Cases exist of direct competitors using the same image!

But the more damaging part is that the cheap microstock images cause your company to be perceived as equally cheap and common. While it is true most consumers don’t know that the image cost less than a buck, they do know that it looks just like every other image they have seen.

Yes, this is self serving.  But it is also true.  Cheap microstock images are costing you far more in lost income than it would have cost you to hire a photographer to do a shoot that produced images that related to you, your product and your services in a way that made you interesting to your clients.

Go get the business your competitors are throwing away!

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