Stock Photography For Tech Writing

When writing about tech, authors are told that there are several key facets of creating copy which need to be adhered to.

The first rule (apart from using notably short paragraphs) is to break up the text with other media: links to Tweets, pictures, snippets of video, even animated GIFs. But of course, when we're discussing issues as nebulous as software or technology, what imagery could we possibly use to brighten up the screen?

The Route One image is, of course, a group of business people sat around a laptop/whiteboard/iPad pointing and smiling. If the subject matter is particularly dynamic, the models may well be standing. While pointing. But in either case, the subject of all that attention will be the funniest or most impressive thing the audience has ever seen. Plus, all the workplace colleagues will be drop-dead gorgeous, of course.

And so, in that vein, here is the igeek essential guide to choosing imagery to intersperse into your technical texts. Enjoy!

Subject 1: Hacking/cybersecurity/viruses/the dark web etc.

A hooded figure, face covered, at a computer, overlaid with binary digits displayed on a 1980’s-style green-on-black display. Alternatively, the same hooded figure can be looking at, or be in some way framed by, lines of code. The code will be, on closer inspection, standard web code and consist of rather run-of-the-mill Javascript, CSS, and HTML.

Subject 2: Artificial intelligence/machine learning/deep learning.

Some kind of robotic figure, often with a human face, preferably female. The robots will either be looking into the middle distance or be building something in a factory. If the tone of the article is threatening, there should be several robots and absolutely no human beings in the image. If the tone is lighter, robots and humans can exist in the same frame, perhaps with the robots being told off by the more superior human beings.

3. Databases/communications applications/data storage/data retrieval.

A human model, in the background of a shot with a very tight depth of field, reaching forward to touch a translucent screen (foreground) with a virtual button on it. From said button, there'll be lines and hieroglyphs emanating as if the user has caused something miraculous to happen. This image of the Minority Report-type user interface is one that's ubiquitous in technology stock photography. Unfortunately, no-one seems to remember how tired their arms get when held out for more than a few minutes.

4. Call centres/telephones/customer services.

A special type of smiling model is used in this situation, whose teeth must be a very special shade of white - a shade of white that no words in any language can adequately describe. Almost invariably, the phone-operating smiling models will be wearing hands-free headsets, thus looking like the type of singers who perform with pre-recorded backing tracks and professional dancers.

5. Specialist areas of businesses: law/finance/HR.

Filing cabinets are often found in these images. For the stock image supplier, this is a boon, as simply by showing a file being removed from a filing cabinet, all sorts of bases can be covered. To increase the impact, text can be PhotoShop-ed onto the front of the file in the image, which will say something pertinent like, "Contract Law", or "Complaints Procedure".

6. Manual work/building site/oil refinery/factory/warehouse.

Impossibly beautiful people in spotless work clothes will be strangely content, as they gather in groups in their chosen working environment to discuss how they keep their hard hats so clean. Use of a tool by the beautiful people or person often features, but it usually looks rather out of place, like your grandmother wielding a chainsaw and smoking a pipe.

7. Abstract concepts as yet unclassified.

The rule here is to be obvious. Movement of some description? Blurred lines. Problems or issues encountered? Someone frowning. Education or learning? Students with tablets. Travel? A tropical beach. If there's any thought given to image choice in this category, it is too much. Literally, the first thing that comes into the image chooser's head will do perfectly.

We're FileMaker Developers based near Bristol in the South West of England, though we'll create bespoke databases for businesses anywhere in the UK (even London). Occasionally we blog about things that don't relate to FileMaker or database development / design - hence this blog. Hope you liked it!

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