A quick audit of a dozen union websites and brochures suggests that many unions are stuck in a cycle of using clichéd stock photos.
This includes using photos of business men shaking hands to represent negotiation, or a group of ethnically diverse professional workers to represent members.
Unions should avoid stock photos wherever possible.
Stock photos, because they are so generic and ubiquitous, generally provide almost no clue about the union or its activities. Generally they are used to fill up space or as a placeholder. The only reason to use a generic stock photo cliché therefore is laziness.
Professional designers have access to literally 1000s of amazing images online. Sites like Flickr have photos available on Creative Commons license, and there are even more professional photographers who would be happy to sell a license if contacted.
Your union should have the capacity to generate your own amazing photos of members, events and activities by hiring a professional photographer. Hiring a photographer once every two or three years for a few days to build your own photo library is an amazing investment.
Photos are important for online and graphic design. They can convey powerful messages, support written points, and present important information.
Generic images and photos achieve none of this.
Of course, I’m not perfect. I’ve used terribly clichéd photos on this blog over the years. Time can be short, budgets non-existent; I understand why unions resort to stock photos. Unions can’t afford to hire a photographer for every rally or delegates conference.
However, if you do use stock photography, you can avoid the clichéd, regularly used ones. Spending a bit of extra time searching stock photography sites can find some little-used, powerful images.
Similarly, you can avoid clichés by not being literal. If you have a flyer or web page about negotiation, avoid the hand-shake photograph.
The investment in your own image library is an important one to consider. The photos you take will have a long life-time and very diverse range of users. They will come to capture and establish your union’s visual identity and maximise the impact of your campaigns.