Using photos of real company people in your courses

Feb 09, 2011

Interesting question came up this morning from an e-learning developer:

"I am creating a scenario for my first presentation, but I want to grab some attention of my sales reps. It would be great to insert the photo of my Sales VP at the start of the presentation. What's been your experience with company folks acting as the picture graphics in your presentations? Is this a very complicated under taking and a task to be wrestled with at a later more experienced time?"


91 Replies
Larry McIntye

troy schulze said:

we recently were asked to create a project and have actual employees be the "photo-stars"

after some conversation we decided against using "real" employees photos as we thought the viewers could be distracted seeing their co-workers/friends on screen.

Troy, that's the exact same reservation that my client had with photos - they thought the learner would be distracted. I don't agree but the client "is always right."  
Jenise Cook (

Craig Wiggins said:

@troy: yeah, I've often considered that.

fortunately for us, our e-learning is almost exclusively outward facing (made for external clients rather than internal ones) - our clients don't know our Jerry Maguires.

Ah, Craig.....

"You had me at hello!"  ROTF LOL

Actually, I am against using employee photos in internal-facing courses. Why? Terminations. Quits. Layoffs. Sexual (or other) Harassment.

But, others mileage may vary.

Matt Lobel

I have seen some great results from clients that have used employees, but you need to be careful.  If you use photos of employees within your courses, make sure you have had them assign the rights to the images over to you (usually referred to as a model release form).  Some employment contracts cover this, but many do not.  Otherwise it would be possible for them to come back and request that you either cease and desist (in use the images) or pay a royalty for their use if you do not have the rights secured.

In today's litigious world, you cannot be too careful!

In addition to my .02, here is a link to our stock photo site:

Mary Ward

Here's my story on using 'real' people for use in modules.

First, using people from your own company. We've had an issue when a prominent Corporate person featured in many modules, quit and went to work for the competition. I had to remove their image from any courseware.

Second: (and biggest faux pas) I insert an image of a college football coach to illustrate 'leading a team'. This particular football coach went on to hit the headlines months later and was charged with abuse. I received a complaint call from a learner taking that course the day it hit the headlines. Fortunately, I was able to remove and republish within minutes of that initial phone call.

Lesson learned: Always use Stock Photos, never real people. You just never know!

Jenise Cook (

Hello, everyone:

Similar to Mary Ward, we stopped using photos of employees/associates from about 2008 and forward. Due to the economy, there were several layoffs, an unusual occurrence but the crash of the financial markets impacted the client's budget in a negative way.

We had to replace the photo images of several staff/associates who had been laid off. It was a sad and an emotional experience for everyone.

Legal, Compliance, and HR then said "Only use stock photo images from now on."

And, it's been this way with every client since except one large pharmaceutical client. But, they felt their employee base was very stable; people hard ever left that company for a competitor. Associates stayed for years/decades. That client used a lot of fun and engaging videos for their field sales training, and that was a very effective use of actual employees in e-learning modules.

Jonathon Miller

I work a full time job and that is often part of the discussion around here. If it is a high value piece that is going to have a long life span - I like to get my SME to voice any narration and use photos of him/her. It goes very quick for me, but I was a photographer long before I was an eLearning professional.

I find that it makes the SME feel more attainable to the learner. The learner is less intimidated by the idea of engaging the SME should she/he have questions or comments in the future. It also makes the learner more engaged, since the know that the SME who is part of his/her company was invloved in the creation of the elearning. Those companies are willing to eat the time to update things when needed for the benefit it provides.

Jonathon Miller

Craig Wiggins said:

for those of your who work in-house e-learning departments: have any of you done regularly-scheduled, smaller office photo shoots to refresh the stock photo library?

I did work for a place that did have their stable of stock images. It was nice to know I could pull from that when needed. However it always seemed like I was left looking for something that they just did not have.

Cary Glenn

I have used pictures of employees in my courses. It is very difficult to find appropriate stock pictures of specific industrial activities. It is almost impossible find stock photos with people wearing all of the required personal protective equipment (hard hats, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, hi-visibility clothing or hi-visibility coveralls, long sleeves, and steel-toed boots).

Sean Speake

Cary, in that case I'd look around for a local photographer looking to expand their portfolio. Custom photography is often cheaper than you might think. Semi-professional models will also often work fairly cheaply as well.

I've often used custom photography when it's too time consuming or difficult to get exactly what we want out of stock photography.

Concetta Phillipps

I read this thread with great interest. Since its been a few years since anyone last commented on this thread, I'm wondering: has anyone's stance changed in the 3-6 years since posting?

Since all things come and go, I was wondering if people have changed from using stock photos to internal photos and vice versa. 

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