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  • Writer's pictureEmma Lawton

Taking a stand against stock

We’ve all seen them.

‘Perfect woman with blindingly white teeth smiles at bowl of limp looking salad.’

‘Ethnically and ability diverse group do their RADA trained best to look like they’ve been friends for years.’

And more recently the barrage of ‘Woman outside window touches palms with elderly mother inside.’

Stock photography forms a very common part of our daily wanderings around the web.

When we started More Human I felt, and still do, that our name holds us very accountable to behaving and presenting ourselves in a particular way. So when it came to our branding I had ‘Be More Human’ blaring from my inner megaphone when I made choices about fonts, colours and the fact that we would in no way shape or form be touching stock photography with a barge pole.

1 year and 10 hastily thrown together pitch decks, a bunch of last-minute social media posts and a customer serving event builder platform later and I can safely say we failed. We’re using stock in our marketing. And our customers are stuck using stock (and god knows what else picked from the depths of the internet) in their listings on our platform.

There’s 1 solid reason why this has happened:


Not everyone has the time or budget to hire a photographer everytime they need photos or the skill and kit to take their own. And with over 350 million snaps across the 30 top stock websites it’s a no-brainer that you’ll find what you’re looking for.

And 5 solid reasons why it annoys me:


I have a huge amount of respect for professional photographers, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something about the way stock imagery looks that feels too ‘clean’ to be real. The whites are too white. The colours too vibrant. And the locations too dust free to feel authentic. Give me a bit of a crumpled dress or a drop in focus anyday.


I think possibly because we’re operating in an area that can be borderline saccharine and twee at the best of times, I dread typing the word ‘community’ into the search field. Cue arms of different skin colours making a star in the middle of the shot. Or a group of pensioners laughing like hyenas whilst taking part in a chair yoga session.


It’s a 4 billion dollar business. And one that relies heavily on the fact that you’ll need to buy a subscription that gives you 10 credits a month until the end of time when all you wanted was a photo of a cake.


Take our pitch deck Vision slide background image for example. Chosen from Unsplash for it’s dreamy togetherness vibes, hints at community and the fact it was 11pm the night before said pitch. Run an internet search for where else it’s used on the web and you’ll see 5,411 other people had the same idea. This one image leads everything from an article titled ‘How to tell if she has a crush on you’ to a roofing consultants home page.


A quick search on a few of the most popular stock sites for imagery of older people (our primary demographic end user) brings up photos that fit into 4 categories, none of which feel right or representative of who we’re reaching: (photos purchased grudgingly to illustrate my point)

You have your quirky older lady, a colourful character with a background and sunnies to match:

The glam ‘are you sure you’re not sisters’ older lady:

The frail and grateful, but immaculately dressed older lady:

And the wizened, ‘National Geographic’ older lady.

And why is everyone ALWAYS LAUGHING?

Here as a palate cleanser is my nan, Audrey. Gloriously human and gorgeous in her 91st year.

We’re making a pledge that by the end of 2021 we will be completely stock photography free. Both in our marketing. And with the photos our customers upload to our platform.

And to do this we know we’ll have to do 2 things:

  1. Educate our customers on good image use practice

  2. Continue to build our own HumanStock library of everyday and activity imagery for our own and customer use, working with professional photographers and our own camera skills to do this

Watch this space!


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