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A hashtag is making the rounds on Twitter, and it's one that marketers should be sure to take note of: #BadStockPhotosOfMyJob. The hashtag, started by scientists, shows stock images that fail to accurately represent what professionals of all kinds actually do.

People across social media are laughing at images of construction workers holding the wrong tools, doctors doing incorrect procedures, and jobs of all kind being portrayed incorrectly.

Using stock photos and imagery is part of many marketers' job, and it can often be a challenge to sift through hundreds of images to find the right fit for a campaign.

Based on my experience at stock photography community Dreamstime.com, I've rounded up tips for how to use job-specific images and avoid ending up on the hashtag of fails with your next campaign.

1. Do your research


Photo: Monkey Business Images, Dreamstime.com

Doing research may seem like common sense, but it's not as common as you might think. Do a bit of research about the profession you are trying to portray, so you can get an understanding of at least the basics.

Some of the most wronged professionals in imagery are doctors and nurses. Depictions in stock photos are full of incompetent doctors and nurses listening to the heart on the wrong side to having drawn blood with the patient's tourniquet still on.

Try to portray the more human side of doctors, like the image above. Also, you might make sure the doctor does not look 20 years old, seeing as most doctors are not that young, and it might be comforting to imply many years of practice.

2. Avoid the easy way out


Photo: Tommy Song, Dreamstime.com

The general guideline: better safe than sorry. Avoid the easy way out! While you may be in a rush to launch a campaign, take the time to go deeper in search and choose the best option out of a large list of results. Don't just quickly select whatever comes first in a stock photo search; try to have a clear representation of what you're looking for and search for it until you find 5-10 good options.

In the end, don't go with the basic shot of a scientist peering into the microscope, choose an image with a bit more character and depth of field, like the one above.

3. Check the equipment


Photo: Rawpixelimages, Dreamstime.com

On #BadStockPhotosofMyJob you will find many examples of stock photos that get the equipment for a type of job all wrong. That is particularly true for professions with a wide variety of tools and instruments, such as construction workers, firefighters, and doctors. There is a level of knowledge and training that goes into using certain devices, and photographers are not the experts in this area.

If you are unsure about the equipment in a photo, try your best to leave it out. To be sure you are on the right track, you can ask someone in that profession about proper use,

4. Match facial expression to profession


Photo: Monkey Business Images, Dreamstime.com

Do you sit at your desk smiling all day? Likely not. Nor do most other professionals. Although smiling faces are a staple in marketing, it is best to match the profession to the facial expression.

Showing workers focused on their work is often a more realistic representation. It will help your images appear more genuine and appeal to those you are trying to engage.

5. Pay attention to outfits


Photo: Eugenesergeev, Dreamstime.com

For many professions, outfits can be a major detail. If you are running a campaign targeted at military professionals, note the uniform worn by those in the images. The same goes for scientists and medical professionals: Double-check they are wearing the proper attire and safety equipment.

If these are the people you are trying to engage, having glaring outfit disparities is not how you want to attract their attention.

6. Be aware of the setting


Photo: Rosshelen, Dreamstime.com

You may have spent all of this time making sure the people in the image portray what you want, but what about the background and setting? Believe it or not, all programmers do not work in dark rooms at night, and people in the military aren't always on the combat field.

Match the individuals, setting, and copy you write to be sure they make sense and align. For example, many programmers work with multiple screens and may even work from home.

* * *

While looking for stock photography mean seem a basic task, it is clear from a number of failed marketing campaigns that it is not. From outfit to setting to facial expression, there are considerations when choosing your imagery. Your customers are smart, and they can sense when you don't do your research.

Now that you are armed with some words of caution and wisdom, happy stock-photo hunting!

Here's to hoping you pick some winners and land on #BestStockPhotosOfMyJob.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Serban Enache

Serban Enache is a co-founder and the CEO of stock photography community Dreamstime.com.

LinkedIn: Serban Enache

Twitter: @SerbanEnache