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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What's Wrong with Traditional Stock Photography Sources for eLearning

Back in 2007, I provided a long list of sources of stock photography for eLearning. And there are lots of other posts available on eLearning Learning Stock Photography.  But I really missed something important: traditional stock photo sources are often a pain for eLearning.

I had coffee with Bryan Jones, the founder of eLearningArt,last week in Los Angeles, and it led to a discussion about images/stock photography and eLearning.  At the start of the conversation, I wasn't quite sure why a company would focus on stock photography specifically aimed at eLearning.  But Bryan was really good at pointing out the pain that goes with getting stock photography from traditional sources and trying to use it for eLearning.

The best way to illustrate the point is with an example. Let’s say I’m creating some eLearning to teach people sales skills. I want to create scenarios where I use characters to walk through common issues that come up when a sales rep meets with customers. For that I need:

  • 1 character to represent my sales rep
  • 2 characters to represent different customers
  • Multiple poses of the sales rep and characters interacting with each other


If I go to a traditional stock photography site and search for business characters, I’ll find:

  • Lots of characters in a suit and tie, but not many in business casual, like my sales reps and customers wear
  • A single, finished shot, but not multiple shots of the characters together in the poses I need
  • Isolated characters only face the camera, so they’re not good to use in an interactive scene
  • People that look more like models than my customers
  • Millions of images to sort through, but very few that are relevant to me

Bryan explained that the issues above are why he created eLearningArt. He highlights that, as an eLearning developer, you would ideally have:

  • Characters shot in isolation, with the backgrounds removed, and in many poses. You can then build your own scene by inserting the character s in the poses you want onto any background.
  • “Real” looking characters of various ages and ethnicities that look like people you work with
  • Characters facing both forward for use in reaction shots, avatars, etc., as well as facing away from the camera to be used in scenarios and conversations
  • Photos organized by outfits and characters. For example, if I want an Asian male doctor, I can look under medical images, find the character I want, and know that there will be dozens of images in that pack. This greatly reduces image search time.
  • Access to other files, such as background images, other stock photos, and templates all formatted for eLearning



That’s not to say that traditional stock sites have no value. There are plenty of images on these sites that are useful. However, the needs of the eLearning developer are often unique, and a site that focuses on eLearning stock photography now makes a lot of sense to me.

Bryan's not the only one doing eLearning related stock photography.  Here's a bit more information on a few of these types of sites:


One Time Purchase Price (average per image)

Subscription Price (Annual per user)

Unlimited downloads

Characters by industry

Other products


About $1 per



Business casual, casual, suits, on the phone, medical, industrial, casual

Templates, stock photos, background images


$1-$5 based on size

Not sure on this

No (credit system)

Professional, business, phone, medical

Animated characters, templates


About $2 per



Business, casual, industrial, medical

Games, activities, skins, templates, interactions, stock photos