“Wait, I know that guy, where have I seen him before?”

You’ve said that or similar plenty of times right? There are some faces that you recognise everywhere.

Well I know one face in particular who I see all the time. Although he’s not actually real I’ve met him many times, in many different contexts. He is ‘older-natural-looking-white-business-man-smiling-with-arms-crossed’ and he is a legend in the stock photography world.

If he’s not selling me an investment account, he’s advising on my tax affairs. Of course with that suit and salesman posture he also makes a great estate agent, an insurance broker, a recruitment consultant and a tax advisor. He can even sell you appropriate eyecare or advise on legal queries.  

He suits all of these professions because he looks the part. In the uninspiring world of stock photography this guy appears natural where so many others appear fake. He’s a genuine professional but not a city slicker. He’s an older gentlemen, but not too old. He’s not the stereotypical caricature of an frail geriatric or a retiree living life to the max. Let’s face it, he’s no ‘silver fox’. He’s just an average guy, but his smile is genuine and his posture is natural. He’s totally believable. He looks like he's worn that suit before, it didn't cost him £2,000, he probably got it from Marks & Spencer or Next. You could imagine meeting him when opening a savings account at the bank or when applying for a mortgage. You can trust him, he's not a big city banker or a used car salesman. He truly is a man for all seasons.

He's so commonplace that you must have seen him about yourself right? Or maybe you've never noticed him? And herein lies his issue. He's so versatile, so obviously leant to a multitude of adverts, annual account covers and bus depot hoardings that he's almost invisible due to his blanket blandness. He fits the billing so well that's he's used everywhere, whenever designers have needed to reach for that older, smiling, professional yet natural looking businessman kinda guy.  

Stock photography is a necessary evil in the design world. Not every job can afford a photoshoot, but for those projects where the extra budget is available, bespoke photography rewards that investment. Photography that is unique to your brand is always more genuine and you’re not likely to bump into the same posed individual moonlighting for another brand! The stock industry however, has come on leaps and bounds in recent years and there are many millions more images to choose from compared with five or ten years ago. This probably means the days of  ‘older-smiling-natural-looking-white-businessman’ dominating the marketing world are coming to an end.

Goodbye ‘older-natural-looking-white-business-man-smiling-with-arms-crossed’ I wish you the very best in retirement and in your future endeavours.