Let me be blunt: Stock photography needs to die. In his 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell argued that clichéd language produces clichéd thinking. Using a stale image, as he’d put it, “makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.” Stock photography imprisons us in the same cognitive jail. Its intentionally bland images are designed to be usable in many vaguely defined situations. This produces wretched photography for the same reason Hallmark cards produce wretched poetry. We live in a visual world, communicating and thinking in pictures. When we use stock photos, we think in clichés.
The true cure for stock photography is inside your camera phone.
Thompson is the author of the excellent Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better.