Perfectly posed pictures, blemish-free skin and smiling faces are out. Seriously. Customers can tell the difference between generic stock photos and the real thing — and they hate anything that’s not authentic.

Even stock photo companies like iStock by Getty Images are trying to get away from irritatingly perfect photos. Rebecca Swift, director of creative planning for iStock, tells AdFreak, “perfection is no longer everything when it comes to business images.” The popularity of apps like Snapchat and Instagram helped drive that big shift in imagery, she explained.

When photos aren’t relevant they often go ignored and usually frustrate customers trying to navigate your site or social media pages. Kissmetrics found that content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images, and 90% of the information going to your customer’s brain is visual.

Authentic, well-placed images could be the determining factor in your website conversions and the success of your social media efforts. With a little strategy, you can choose compelling images that will enhance your content and outperform cheesy stock photos.

Athletic brands enjoy some of the highest return from high-quality images, so we put together some tips to give your photos some inspiration to get you on the right track.

Capture an emotion

We make most of our decisions, especially when we shop, based on how we feel or what our gut tells us. The right photo can leave you curious, make you laugh, or even make your heart sink. When choosing a photo, think about the emotion you want your customers to feel. For example, try a picture that expresses “determination” or “courage” instead of “running.”

Some of CrossFit’s most engaging Instagram posts tug at your heartstrings. They stay true to their brand with stories of people that — against all odds — have accomplished their dreams, and they are hard to forget.

via @johnniep_3 The doctors told him he wouldn't… That's EXACTLY why we do it. #paxtonsarmy #crossfit

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Use action photos

Sometimes a photo is the best way to communicate your message without a ton of copy. You can use photos of people in action to inspire a sense of energy to your customers.

The North Face’s product directory inspires customers to picture what they’re going to do with the products after they buy. By including pictures of people climbing, hiking and running, their product page is more user-friendly with a more compelling call to action.


Appeal to the senses with bold colors

According to Xerox, customers are 80% more likely to read content with colorful images and 39% more likely to remember it. If you have an online store, using bright, striking colors will grab your customer’s attention and increase their recall.

Nike does a great job at posting interesting and colorful visual content using only their products. Nike uses bold background colors and interesting designs to compliment and enhance their product.


But even if you don’t have the design skills, there are plenty of ways to use color in unexpected ways. The photo below highlights a different approach by Nike, a subtle call to buy their shoes. Placing shoes next to an almost colorless background makes the colors stand out.

Use candid photos of your fans

One of the best ways to avoid clichés in photos is to use images of real people in the moment. As a result, their faces, emotions and body language come across natural and authentic — and your customers can relate. Plus, according to a study by 500px, candid photos sell almost twice as much as posed images.

For Patagonia, that means people seeking adventure in the great outdoors. You won’t find posed shots on Patagonia’s Instagram account, most of the time people aren’t even looking at the camera.

Kayo and Ken working on their morning duet. Photo: @miahwatt

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Starting a user-generated content campaign through social media is an easy way to collect authentic pictures of your product in a real-life context. Below, Lululemon inspires fans to get out and be active with the hashtag #thesweatlife.

Soaking up May long. "After a while the water doesn't feel so cold."—📸 @nadinebeland #thesweatlife

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The whole activewear trend is just one of many fashion movements among the millennial segment. The key to engaging all of these shoppers, however, is to publish the right imagery on the right channels at the right times. Download “The Millennial Mindset: Visual Marketing Tips for Fashion & Beauty Retailers” to learn how you can source imagery that drives revenue for your brand.