I was leafing through what I thought was a great local tourism publication. It was well-written and well-designed, and the photography of local landmarks and amenities was outstanding. And then I noticed the full-page photograph opposite the Lodging page. It was of a maid in a luxurious hotel throwing open the drapes and revealing the beautiful skyscrapers beyond.


The only problem is that the city in question doesn’t have any skyscrapers. In fact, the tallest building in its downtown area probably tops out at six stories.


What clearly happened is that the tourism group or the designer they hired didn’t have a compelling local photo for that page, so they simply purchased a stock photo and thought it made a nice impression. To someone who didn’t know the community, that wouldn’t be a problem (although they might be disappointed when they visited). But to someone who had been there, it called the accuracy of all the other photographs into question.


There were several other stock photos in the publication, but they were at least plausible. I’m sure that the tourism group and its designer thought the image of the maid was cool and dramatic — and it was. But today’s consumer would rather have authenticity than fakery. Stock photos can be a wonderful, affordable tool — but only if the photos are at least reasonably accurate. An actual shot from one of the community’s hotels might not have been dramatic, but it would have been far more authentic.