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NogginLabs was founded on the notion that custom e-learning design and development is the ultimate horizontal industry. Time and again, each new project, client, and industry proves it. The biggest advantage of the e-learning horizontal is cross-pollinating ideas from two wildly different domains. A restaurant service simulation for iPad may influence a high-fashion online retail challenge. E-learning for financial advisors in a bank could inspire a mobile outreach program for cancer survivors. This variety also keeps the creative folks at NogginLabs fresh. Fresh learning ideas and designs come from a set of constantly changing constraints.

Continuing the quest for authentic stock photography in e-learning


Continuing the quest for authentic stock photography in e-learning

Nikki Slaughter-Adams

You know what never gets old? Authenticity in stock photography. Given all the ridiculous/horrifying/comically terrible stock photo options, we know how difficult it can be to find just the right image for custom e-learning that doesn't turn people off. Here are a few more things to keep in mind while you're on the hunt (and if you missed my earlier post on this topic, check it out here). 


When choosing stock photos, one must keep in mind who these images are meant to be seen by. In order for your content to connect with the audience, your choice of imagery must also connect with them. Choosing the wrong stock photography can leave your audience feeling alienated or patronized. For example, if your content is about healthy eating and fitness for the middle aged to senior citizens, you’d probably want to lay low on using pics of those young little thangs in scant athletic clothing, sporting abs of steel and buns resembling two perfectly round cantaloupes. At the same time, don’t underestimate your audience. Who ever said you can’t be over 40 and fit as a fiddle?  You’d want to include a good mix of appropriately aged people, of various levels of fitness.

Also, don’t forget that people not only come in all shapes and sizes, but in a rainbow of colors as well. You might have to hunt a little harder to incorporate the right balance of ethnic diversity, but your tired eyes and dry mouth will be rewarded with an audience that feels included and more engaged.

Instead of this:

Try this gorgeous lady:

Though a little staged, it’s still a great shot. The setting is realistic, she’s appropriately dressed (yet still quite stylishly, I might add) and, best of all, she’s not looking at the camera and giving us a weird fake smile. Oh, can we also take a moment to be totally impressed by the weight of the dumbbells this lady has chosen?

Instead of this class act:

How about this dynamic duo?

Again, realistic setting, no fake smiles or gazing right at the camera and a genuine depiction of how a senior couple stays active.


Don’t choose images that are poorly/overly/oddly Photoshopped. You can do all the editing that you need to do once you’ve purchased the high resolution image, and I’m willing to bet that you or your design staff can do a better job, plus you’re in total creative control.

I think we may be witnessing an alien abduction here… and all they want is the salad.

Holy cat on a mountaintop! Okay, mad props for this amazing feat of Photoshop wizardry… it’s just too bad it’s wasted on such a wonky concept.


A cliché is defined as “a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.” How do you know when you’ve hit the cliché jackpot? Just believe me when I say that you have a mental rolodex of these things neatly filed and stored away, so you’ll know one when you see one and many of them are also accompanied by the faint scent of cheese.

What’s so appealing about cliché images is that they can instantly convey a concept (and that’s awesome), but the easy road isn’t always the most effective or interesting road. In most cases, aiming to convey the same idea in a unique way will have the added payoff of enhancing the audience’s connection with the content and not turning into a total snooze-fest. Not to mention it’s nice to stretch those creativity muscles from time to time, right?

Resist! The world doesn’t need another “close-up handshake” to get across the idea of collaboration.

Type “idea” into any stock photo search bar and prepare to see more ways of visually depicting a light bulb than even the most genius of minds could ever conjure. We get it. Ideas are “bright” and like a light switching on in your mind, but how fun would it be to get those brain gears (also cliché) cranking and find a more interesting way to visually describe this concept?


Last but not least, avoid using exaggerated expressions of emotion and/or images that are just plain creepy/weird.

This guy isn't just sad. He's circus clown sad. 

When I’m sad, I too like to carry around a psychotically happy duplicate of my face stuck on the end of a wooden spoon. (Bonus points if you noticed this also falls in the aforementioned Photoshop Magic category.)

That's all, for now anyway. There really is no end to the bounty of bizarre and inappropriate stock photos out there. But please, take the time to sort through the mess and find the good ones. Your custom e-learning projects will be better for your efforts.