One of my clients, a therapist, wanted a new site design. I suggested we incorporate stock photography to help visually indentify her four areas of focus: families, adults, teens, and children. Each audience has a separate page and I thought a photo would quickly identify the page.
I started with the page for family therapy. I went to the usual stock photo sources, such as Fotolia, iStockPhoto Shutterstock. These sites have thousands, if not millions of photos available. Surely there would be one that represented “family” Something that people seeking counseling could identify with.
A search under “family” did indeed find thousands of photos at each site. But in spite of the many choices they seemed to repeat themselves. Each photo portrayed parents and children smiling intensely, incredibly happy, beautiful, and healthy. In sum, an idealized image of what we would like to be but know in our hearts we are not. And nothing that someone seeking therapy could identify with.
I thought I would try the keywords “family therapy” and instead came up with serious, arguing couples and alienated teens. Ok, that may be an accurate image of how therapy plays out but potentially a big turn off of a visitor to the site. What I was looking for was a ‘normal’ family. One that had potential for friction and discontent but for joy and loving as well. That is a family like all of us. Seems like it shouldn’t be too hard.
But it was. There were few if any photos of families that looked to me like a “normal” family. So I thought I would try more unconventional sources.
I took a look at morguefile.com, a place I assume where good pictures go to die. I indeed did find some very realistic normal families but not really enough choices to find the right one. I also tried Flickr Creative Commons and found some great examples of normal families here. But I was realizing that I was running into a problem. The more ‘normal’ someone the more unique they are. And the more unique they are they harder it is for someone to identify with.
I also realized that I might run into a problem if the actual family pictured might see their photo on a site for therapy and be offended with the implied message “this family needs therapy”. Not all of these photos had model releases.
I realized there is a reason stock photographers use typically beautiful models. The more beautiful people are the less unique they are and less likely someone is going to thing they represent an actual individual.
So back to the stock photos. Digging a little deeper I found a photo for a family grouping that seemed real enough. It was unique in that they were all women and multi-generational but still clearly models and not real people. And still very much said “family”.
Placing this photo looked good on the page and did underscore the “family” in family therapy but still had a problem. With a testimonial so close it, it seemed like there could be some confusion. Was the quote from someone in the picture?
The solution I finally came up with was to move the picture down into the text and crop it significantly to just the essence of “family’. To further set it off I give it a border (borrowing from artwork elsewhere in the site) that clearly identified it as an icon of sorts.
The lesson here: thousands of stock photos can’t be all wrong.
Next week: Selecting Keywords for Dummies