The Universality Of Office Stock Photos

New photographers looking to break into commercial endeavors like stock photography are often perplexed about how to make images that are not just visually attractive but are commercially successful as well.

One of the most popular categories of stock is the subject of business. So how do you best approach this topic to produce images that sell? Try thinking about the subject as it relates to the popular comic strip Dilbert.

Scott Adams uses universal themes in Dilbert to appeal to a wide audience of people. Anyone who has worked in any office anywhere can readily identify with the Pointy-Haired boss, or the know-it-all co-worker and the company slacker.

We probably also see ourselves as the trying-to-succeed-in-a-mixed-up-world main character of Dilbert himself. We can readily empathize with the situations and setting those characters find themselves in with humor and grace.

Apply those same concepts to your images, and you have the foundation for successful business stock photos. Start with these universal themes.

Business Man on Monkey Bars

People and Teams

The trend in stock photography is away from the beautiful models acting like they are doing something – talking of the phone, looking seriously at a piece of paper, shaking hands in introductions, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. The need now is for quality images of realistic people in realistic business setting doing realistic activities – a more candid and unscripted feel.

Apply the same thoughts to teams and team activities. They should be easily identifiable and associated most closely with the universal concepts of doing business. And remember that business is global; so make sure your subjects represent a diverse inclusion of genders and ethnicities.

Bear and Bull Markets


When you think of business, finances naturally comes to mind. Images focusing on hard currency, stocks and bonds, or banking instruments fall into this area.

As do images associated with loans, mortgages or debt. If it has to do with money, it‘s an image needed in this category.


Images needed here fall into one of two categories. The industries within the business arena: marketing, accounting, finance and entrepreneurship; and the industries of business: financial advisors, stockbrokers, bankers, retailers and the like.

Think also of how business is conducted within specific niche industries as opposed to generic business to fill the demand they create.

Transportation and Travel

Well dressed business professionals hailing a cab or walking into an airport – as well as the business of travel – travel agencies, rental car companies, or airports – are some of the types of images needed in this area. Images are needed that deal with the transportation of people and goods. Think shipping, trucking and rail. Automobiles and airplanes. Show how business uses transportation to keep running on a day-to-day basis.

Last Will and Testament

Objects and Still Life

Business objects can range from calculators and abacuses to tax forms and contracts. Any object used in any discipline while conducting business will fall into this category. Don’t forget to think of retro or futuristic objects as well.

Creatively combine objects to create a theme or universal concept. Think of all the objects used in a house purchase: For Sale sign, mortgage applications, building blueprints and the like. Grouping them together can convey the entire process of buying and selling in the real estate market as just one example.

Circuit Board Workers


You wouldn’t dream of spending a day in business without the support of computer systems and applications. Show how they are used everyday in the modern business world. Show what happens when we don’t have them for a few hours or days. Show how technology is changing how business is being conducted.

Telecommuting. Team collaboration and brainstorming. Written communications in the form of documents, text and email. Working remotely from home or on the road with the assistance of advanced video conferencing. All are part of this ever-evolving area of business technology.


Remember, a picture can speak a thousand words. Use creatively composed images to represent esoteric and complex business themes. Just make sure that concept or theme is easily identifiable. A smartphone stands in for social media.

A calculator means financing. Using those building blocks, the world of business is easily recreated in pictures.

Business Man Under Water


Not everything in the business world needs to be buttoned up and formal. Any of these categories can be approached in a whimsical manner to produce uniquely represented concepts that set them apart from the competition.

Think communications using smoke signals, or accountants represented with people counting beans in a backroom. And when speaking of images in each of these areas, don’t limit yourself to only still photos. Videos and illustrations can be used anywhere a photo can.

So grab your camera, and the next time you approach the subject of business – or any other popular commercial theme – ask yourself one question. “What would Dilbert do”?

All images copyright Karen Foley via

Images are provided by the author