How to Choose the Best Healthcare Photography by Avoiding Cliché

A picture speaks a million words. A cliché picture speaks a few words that everyone has heard a million times.

Photography that is overused to a point where it loses its original impact is the very definition of cliché. Learning how to choose the best healthcare photography is difficult because cliché images are everywhere in the Medical Technical industries. They are continued to be used because we are too busy making great things to help people that matter. We fail to realize that these images are the very thing left to represent us.

You have worked hard to get your company where it is at. The pride of navigating the trials and tribulations of business growth is well earned. You love your job, and you love the people that you help. All this work, all this energy, ultimately suffocated by representing your company with an image of a model playing doctor.

Model in a lab coat. Cliche healthcare photography.
Super serious but approachable model wearing a lab coat.

How do you choose the best photography?

Your goal is to improve a website, a brochure, or other marketing material that you need to put some images in. You (or your designer, or your second cousin you pay to take care of the design stuff) turn to a stock photography site. You would prefer to choose the best healthcare photography available, but anything partially relative will do. After your very specific product name search proves little results, you then search ‘medical, ‘‘doctor, ‘‘medical devices, ‘or the like.

Whoa! Your options now are overwhelming. So how do we choose? How do we avoid cliché? Are stock images the right choice?

Best Healthcare Photography Available.
Top 5 Better Alternatives to Cliché Photography (models in lab coats with stethoscopes)

two men controlling the quality of lab container. Best Healthcare Photography
A real visual story develops as these two men are controlling the quality of lab container. @Chawki via Twenty20

1. Think About the Story

Stock photography isn’t all bad. To find and choose the best healthcare photography and avoid the cliché, we must start with the story. I know it can be daunting. If you can’t invest and execute a brand strategy for your company, like what we offer at Hiarki Design Co., you can simply think of what you are trying to say–the intent, the message. You are in a far better position to be selective in what you choose when you have a story. Otherwise, you are blindly inspired by beautiful people in lab coats.

Get the best healthcare photography by hiring a photographer
Photographers are the best option in telling your story.

2. Hire a Photographer

Did you know that your competitors are looking at the same stock images? This is because they have a similar brand story. So, they will probably choose that very same photo that aligns so well with your company.

This is when you hire a photographer.

Shooting images specifically for your company is the only way to choose the best healthcare photography. Photographers have the training and experience to tell your story. They will find the perfect shot(s) of your people and your product. The best part is, it is your photography to use in all your marketing materials and no one else’s. (Understand all rights the photographer is selling to you. Read your contracts, friends.)

believable stock of lab technician is good healthcare photography
This stock photography is believable because it’s focused on the task. @manjurulhaque via Twenty20

3. Use Better Stock Healthcare Photography

There is better stock photography out there. A lot of times, this comes with a higher price point, but sometimes not. The most commonly used stock photography sites are ShutterstockEnvento Elements, and Adobe Stock. A few premium stock photography sites are Getty ImagesTheme Forest (Envato Market), and Offset by Shutterstock. If this is your only option, give yourself some time to search for the perfect match.

man mixing colored water is bad healthcare photography
Mixing beautiful colored water isn’t a story about your BioTech innovation unless it’s mixing colored water.

4. Ditch the Cliché Elements (unless they are relevant)

Story is everything, especially for the cliché photographs. Avoid the cliché photos by knowing the cliché elements in the photos. Every industry has them. With a quick scan of your competitor’s websites, you will develop a short (or long) list of them. Elements most often used in our industry are lab coats and stethoscopes. There is also mixing colored waterclipboards, and (my favorite) models looking with a neutral expression into the camera.

Elements Symbolize Context

Here’s the deal. Elements in a photograph often (always) symbolize context. It’s a thing, a thing that says, “Hey, we’re talking about medical stuff here.” Understanding this, we can find more relevant symbols to achieve this goal without resorting to cliché ones.

Unless you run a business mixing colored water, you then have a ton of stock to choose from.

lone woman standing in sun ray surrounded by dark forest

5. Using Photography as a Metaphor

Take warning; this one is more difficult to achieve than it seems. AND this category of stock photography has its multitude of cliché images available, like a photo of stacked rocksa man looking through a sole open-door frame, or a woman watering an oversized <something> with an oversize watering can.

That being said… There is a lot to consider with metaphor, especially for those who work in our industry’s more sensitive and personal parts.

Think about this: a dark photo saturated in blues and grays. It is underwater. Flecks of reflected sunlight are just able to be made out as we are looking up to a surface. A powerful image. We could be talking about new Biotechnology for Alzheimer’s Disease, or we could be talking about the medical equipment used in general anesthesia. Either way, the goal is for your customer to understand and relate.


How you choose the best healthcare photography by selecting photos that best represent your company’s story–the message, the intent. Invest in better stock, a photographer, or a brand strategist to communicate to your customer what they need to understand.

Hiarki Design Co.

We are a brand strategy and design company founded by creative strategist Doug Forbes. Whether your business is evolving or new to the medical industry, we take a strategic approach to support your company’s growth and inspire your customer to take action.

Reach out to us at to take the next step.