Like many of you I'm sure, I consider the creation of user personas to be a crucial part of the UCD process, particularly when starting a new project.

While we all have our own techniques and styles for writing personas, I've often wondered what the best methods are for sourcing appropriate photographs to attach to each of these profiles? While it's an insignificant part of the creation process itself, I often find that a good photo is key to making the persona believable and convincing.

When working with fashion brands this generally isn't too much of a problem; I'll head to Getty images or i-stock photo etc... But when working with companies that actually interact with 'everyday people', what do you find are the best methods of sourcing royalty-free photographs of people who don't look like they came straight out of a soap commercial?

Also to extend this question, what other techniques do you employ in order to make your user personas more believable?

  • 2
    Not sure in sourcing photos but names and other details can be generated with fakenamegenerator.com - I use it myself and I love it
    – user8848
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 11:14
  • 1
    This place almost seems made for the task: uifaces.com
    – Tim Minor
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 9:10
  • What about taking portraits(pictures) of real persons? Isn't that who the personas should be based on?
    – Velkommen
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 9:31
  • @TimMinor - I love the site! I wish the images were (a) higher resolution and (b) sortable by ethnicity, etc. Thanks for the recco.
    – JWMC
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 20:01

2 Answers 2


Flickr advanced search allows to restrict the sarch according to Creative Commons criteria (e.g., usable for commercial purposes). Due to the diversity of people using flickr you can find many different kinds of pictures using the search term 'portrait' for example:



The ones you mention, and stock.xchng should generally suffice - searching for 'natural looking' and 'passport photo' usually gets something less 'bubbly'.

Also try searching for specific professions or roles - like nurse, shop assistant, scientist, etc.

[EDIT] Believability:

More detail generally means more realistic - a little biography, something that tells a story and brings the information together.

Another technique for ensuring that personas are more believable is to include one real person, someone you know, in amongst the other personas as it allows you to keep a more grounded perspective when looking at the group as a whole. [This sounds like - but is NOT in contradiction to my answer to another question recently where I was saying you shouldn't use real people instead of your personas :)]

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