You’ve been told not to use stock photography in place of more realistic imagery in your marketing a million times. You may have even gotten really defensive over it, because “stock photos are so clean, so perfect, so BLUE!” (seriously why are so many stock photos the exact same shade of blue?)


You may have convinced yourself stock photos are the way to go because of the price tag. You’re right, it’s entirely possible to fill your website with stock photos for less money than you would spend hiring a photographer. But there’s some bad news. You’re not the first to think this way, and there are thousands of other businesses getting images from the same stock site as you. This is how clichés are born.

If you haven’t stumbled across a version of one of these painfully overused stock images, I’d like to know how not having internet is working out for you.


The Handshake:

It’s like companies think we won’t know we’re on a professional website if they don’t immediately hit us with the handshake. We know you make deals and conduct business, and we could have guessed that the vast majority of your employees have hands. This imagery says nothing about your services unless you sell cuff links or you’re offering an all-day seminar on proper handshakes.


“Here, have a plant!”:

Even if I wanted to be gifted a tiny nondescript plant, I would prefer it was a little less messy. Seriously, put that thing back in a pot before you kill it! I legitimately don’t understand where this cliché came from or why it stuck around. I assume the idea is to symbolize new growth or green living, but it’s a puzzling choice. You would never see this unrelatable image out in the real world, so why would you want to confuse your customers with it?


Plastic Employees in Business Meetings:

If you see a site featuring a brightly lit photo of a color coordinated, racially diverse team that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Those plastered on smiles aren’t fooling anyone, and if you’ve ever spent time on stock photography sites you know the same models show up in all the photos. Above you can see Derek, Roy, Bernard, Allen, Jeff, Lindsey and Katherine having a really good time in a meeting where Allen has inexplicably given everyone a blank sheet of paper. (Classic Allen move!) Keep your eyes peeled though, because you’ll start noticing them all over the internet, doing everything from networking to whispering by a water cooler.

No one believes this group of phonies works for you, and as impressive as that natural light and fake graph are, most customers would rather see your actual team.


Writing on the Wall:

This probably seemed so cool and original the first time it was done. However, now that we’ve seen every possible variation on this image, I think it’s time we give it a rest. I mean I’m with you– writing backwards can be fun, but how practical is it really? The novelty has worn off and we know that’s not even a real invisible dry erase board you’re using. Surely there is a more personalized way to show off your company’s success than this.

In fact, there is almost always a better alternative to plastering stock photos everywhere. There are designers out there who can create a visual style that will be both attractive and functional, without using a tired cliché. You can even take team photos and product shots and edit them yourself.

The thing about stock photos is they are useful in certain situations, but should be used sparingly so as not to diminish your company’s credibility and authenticity.