Stock Photos vs Actual Residents

Stock Photos vs Actual Residents for Senior Living Marketing Materials

Stock Photos vs Actual Residents for Senior Living Marketing Materials

Anna’s Story

Anna is the darling of her senior living community. Her pouf of snow-white hair, naturally rosy cheeks, and impish grin made her a natural choice to model for a direct mail campaign promoting her community. But a few weeks after the mailers were sent, Anna suffered a stroke and had to be moved to assisted living.

Anna’s decline highlights a potential problem with using residents as models: their health is not always predictable, and unforeseen—and unfortunate—events can create an awkward situation when marketing materials have already been purchased, printed, and distributed.

Using Stock Photos

Turning to stock photos can seem like a reasonable alternative. After all, stock photos are fast and inexpensive: no need for a time-consuming and potentially tedious photo shoot. Also, stock photos have a clean, polished look that brings a professional edge to your materials. The potential pitfall of ruffled feathers on the part of residents not chosen to be part of the shoot is avoided, too.

Another advantage of going the stock photo route is access to a massive selection of pictures staged by designers and shot by professional photographers. No model release forms or waivers required. And you won’t have to worry about anyone wearing stripes and plaids—and refusing to change clothes!

Tell Your Community Story

Although convenient, using stock photos definitely has downsides. Many stock photos are overused and have an artificial, “canned” look to them. An on-site, professional photo shoot featuring actual residents can go a long way towards reinforcing your brand by telling the story of life in your community. Also, real residents more accurately reflect the visual age and appearance of your prospects than stock photos, helping you communicate more effectively with your target.

Photos of everyday life can serve as a “day in the life” snapshot that communicates with prospects in ways no stock photos ever can. If you decide to shoot onsite, consider working with your photographer on the following to make the shoot go smoothly:

  • Pre-approve clothing choices by making sure you see the resident wearing the clothing before the shoot (have fun—make the preview a “fashion show!”)
  • Keep sessions short—but be prepared for things to take a bit longer than you’ve planned
  • Consider space that is light and has high ceilings—but avoid overhead light
  • Even better is natural, outdoor light—as long as it’s soft and diffused
  • Close face shots make anyone uncomfortable, so be sensitive to your residents’ desire to look and feel their best
  • Have snacks and water (spills won’t stain clothing!) handy to keep everyone alert and engaged
  • Make your shoot as inclusive as possible to keep morale high and reinforce positive feelings about your community

Finally, remember that your residents are not trained models, but they want to do their best for you and the community they love. Take some time to reassure them and make them feel comfortable, safe, and appreciated.

Finding the Best with Balance

Clearly, there are pros and cons to using stock and actual resident photos. Using both types of photography judiciously makes for smart and effective marketing materials. Fall back on stock photos when you’re short on time or are looking for a specific visual component.

For the greatest impact and the most potential to connect with prospects, personalize photos by using resident models—because no one does a better job of sharing the joy of living at your community. Make the investment in an on-site photo session with a professional photographer really pay off with materials that not only share your story, but go beyond: generating excitement, boosting morale, and creating a heightened sense of community pride among residents.

CLICK TO LEARN MORE about how Colorworks can help you market your senior living community right now. Drop us an email at or call 610.367.7599 x 244 We’re ready to help!

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