Should You Use Photographs of Real Lawyers Instead of Stock Images?

I’ve run into a handful of attorneys that want nothing to do with having their image or photograph on the firm’s website. I’m not sure if the aversion comes from modesty, self-consciousness, or some other reason. The bottom line is that studies show it can be more effective to use photos of real lawyers vs stock images.

The Study

The Marketing Experiments Blog posted the results of a study testing the use of stock images vs. real people. In the experiment, the firm was working with a consumer credit counseling service offering free debt consultations. The study was focused specifically on the main banner image found on the homepage.

The control used was a generic stock image of a woman with a headset. (As a side note, this particular stock image had been tested against other stock images, including different genders, and ultimately came out the winner).

The issue with the image as the author describes it is:

Your customers are pretty savvy. They know Smiley McHeadset doesn’t really work for your company. They know she’s a paid model and is likely smiling in an ad for a bank and a billboard for a credit card as well. Do you think that deepens the trust with your company?

Or as David Meerman Scott said at this year’s Email Summit, “The problem with the B2B happy multi-cultural conference room with computer shot is that it has become a cliché. It is world-class, cutting-edge, mission-critical visual gobbledygook. Just like written gobbledygook, this kind of image is so overused to have become meaningless.”

The Test

The test was to use an image of the company founder instead of the stock image. As the article mentions:

The thought was that the higher relevance created by a recognizable image would more closely tie into the motivations of the ideal prospect.

[..]

Now this new image represented a real person, with real credentials, and was highly recognizable for channels coming to the home page (television ads, news articles, etc.).

The Results

When the image of the founder was used, visitors were 35 % more likely to sign up for a free consultation.

Conclusions

As the author mentions, this study is less an indictment on stock imagery and more about using imagery that communicates value to the visitor. The author asks some important questions about each of the images including:

  • Is the image related to the core value proposition?
  • Is the image relevant to my visitor’s situaiton?
  • Does the image bring a reality to my offer the words cannot?

For law firms, the value to a client is in the experience, service, and expertise of the lawyer in helping them with their legal issues. The visitors to your site are looking for legal help from someone they can trust. Being able to see the actual individuals that can help them with their issues communicates far more value than simply throwing up stock photos.