Taking Stock: When (and When Not) to Use Stock Photography in Manufacturing

You’ve seen these images online. The smiling face of a call center representative. The happy grins of satisfied customers ordering a product on their laptop. The epic hero shot of a generic warehouse or factory building.

Look closer. That call center representative is sitting in front of a massive CRT monitor, circa 1999. The laptop is from 1995. The headquarters shot has cars from 1979 in the parking lot.

Welcome to the world of stock photography.

These days, there are a plethora of stock photography sources, from Shutterstock to iStockphoto, Fotolia to Getty Images. If you need an image, almost anything you can imagine, you can find it for a fee on one of these sites.

Just for fun, go to istockphoto.com and type “factory worker smiling” and think about how many of these you might be tempted into using on your site. Now type “Man wearing a bucket on his head” into the search bar. Good, right?

There’s nothing wrong with stock photography. It can be an inexpensive option when you’re trying to put a presentation together, or if you need to build a “contact us” page on your website. However, sometimes the better alternative is to have your own stock photography. Simply hire a professional photographer (or encourage a talented semi-pro employee) to take photographs of your staff, your products, your workplace, and build an image library that’s unique to your company.


You probably already have a library of product photographs. Stock photography is often less of an option here, since your products are going to be unique. Make sure your product shots are up to date, and make sure to get a professional who specializes in product photography to take them. If you have more generic stock shots of products moving through the packaging process, warehouse scenes etc., then consider replacing them with photos taken at your own facilities. Make sure not to reveal any sensitive processes or systems, of course.


If you can, always populate your website or documents with photographs of actual employees. It doesn’t matter if they are photogenic or not (well, you know, within reason). Make sure to caption the photograph with the name (and title, if applicable) of the person pictured, and don’t forget to add an alt tag such as “Jim Fisher, Sales Executive at Company Name, LLC.”

Not only does this give employees a sense of involvement and value, it will add a great deal of credibility in the minds of current and potential customers, especially if the person pictured is someone your customers talk with regularly. Putting a face to a name is a powerful relationship-building tool for both employees and customers.

You may need to get “model releases” from your employees in order to use their photos. Check with HR to see if employment contracts already include some kind of language around using staff photos for marketing purposes. Most employees won’t mind at all. In the last twelve years, I only know of one person who refused to have their photograph taken for their company to use online.


Replace any generic photography of warehouses, manufacturing facilities, call centers, etc. with photographs of your locations. Again, be aware of, or sensitive to, any confidential information, customer records, and so on. Take your own shots of your headquarters, too, and keep those photographs up to date by replacing them every couple of years.


It may take a little more effort to build a personalized, company-specific library of photographs, but ultimately it will show your employees and customers that you’re detail-orientated, and more self-aware than many competitors. Showing off your staff and products shows that you’re proud of both.

About Stephen Herron

Stephen Herron is a Senior Digital Marketing Strategist at Fathom, and has been working in the realms of digital content and online marketing since the late 1990s. A native of Northern Ireland, Stephen is a graduate of the University of Ulster, and has lived in the United States since 2000. Previous roles include Manager of Digital Strategy & Development for Crain’s Cleveland Business, Web Content Manager for KraftMaid, and Editor for Insurance.com. Stephen is a published author in the RPG industry, and an avid photographer.

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