On a recent persona project I thought I should practice what I preached and get some decent photos.

The whole point of personas is to bring real users to life so that project teams find it easier to understand and empathise with their customers.

I often see personas that use stock photos of models to represent customers of a product or service. The problem with stock is that the models often look fake. This clearly causes problems when using it for personas which must be believable to be successful.

We had recruited actual customers of my clients service to take part in some research at our offices. This presented an ideal opportunity to get easy access to real people to take photos of.

I thought that we could take a quick full length portrait of them after they had finished, we we could then crop as we needed to suit the final format of the personas.


I set up a simple studio (as above) in the office but you don’t need to use lights or a back drop to do this (although it made doing the work in post production easier).

We asked all of the customers for permission to do this and they all signed model release forms.

We created booklets of the final persona profiles for everyone at my clients business, as well as 4 life-size cut outs of the final personas to ‘live’ in our clients office.

Ideally I’d have liked to have shot them in their own environments but given the logistical challenges this presents, dropping backgrounds in using photoshop might be the next step.

A blog celebrating photos, the unsung heroes of great user experience design, by James Chudley (@chudders)

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