Let's all agree, now and forever: no more stock photos

Have you seen this agent?

Realtor with phone

How about these crazy kids?

Couple in front of home

Lots of other people have, too. Because these folks, and the photos they inhabit, are mixed into to real estate websites endlessly in an effort to increase their “humanity” or “warmth.”

They have the opposite effect.

As clichés drained of meaning, they subtract from the emotional impact of almost any marketing effort.

Don’t use stock photography. Just don’t. Take the pledge with me.



I’m not saying photos on your website are bad idea. They are often desirable. Real estate is about people and places, after all. Photos frequently fit the bill.

But do put more thought and a little more money into your selection process. I licensed the photos above for a little over $3. I’m suggesting you might spend $300 or $3,000 to have a pro create something that’s uniquely yours.

Here are some ideas:

Use real customers

Redfin – a company whose instructive power is often lost on brokers who dislike their business model or agents – does this really well.

Take a look:

Redfin Home Page

Those smiling faces aren’t the product of a keyword search for “happy family + house”; they are Redfin customers. And notice, too, the testimonial beneath the photo. It’s real. People like real. They are drawn to it – especially from an industry where fake is widespread.

Use company ownership


I guarantee it!

This was the tagline of the Men’s Warehouse for years. The company’s owner, George Zimmer, spoke it – on TV and radio – over and over again.

He’d ask you to call him. He’d play real voice mail messages from happy customers in his radio ads. He was the responsible party – the person behind a brand promise. It worked. Men who had previously bought department store suits from $10 an hour sales people working for anonymous corporate managers felt they knew George – and they could count on him to deliver.

I’ll admit this is dicey territory. I have spent years bemoaning poorly executed personal branding in this business – the carnival of ersatz personas that fail to telegraph anything that could rightly be called a customer benefit.

However, I am thinking this could be effective at the company level if done well. We know brokers who could pull it off, but haven’t seen it… yet.

Go with places instead of people


Pacific Union, a large Northern California brokerage positioned in the high-end of their market, uses great photos of properties they’re selling or have sold on their home page. There’s a connection between the company and the property, the property and the market, the market and the viewer [Disclosure: 1000WATT Consulting has performed work for Pacific Union].

Pacific Union Home Page

This is so much better than a “luxury” shot, or a site cloaked gratuitously in black speaking in curlicue fonts – the standard play of the luxury real estate marketer.


Difference, always


Branding and marketing boils down to difference. What is your company saying – and, more importantly, doing – that no one else in your market can or will do?

Photos of nameless ciphers standing in for your brand definitely don’t fit the bill.