10 Stock Photo Clichés that are Decimating Your Credibility

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Thematically overdone stock photography has landed front-and-center on important web pages, seemingly filtering up from the unknown depths of the web.

Perhaps, the proliferation of poor-quality stock photos has to do with convenience: just how easy they are to find, purchase and use.

And, for the busy individual who doesn’t have a lot of time, the first semi-suitable image found is often the one selected. Unfortunately, for every day they appear on your website, these rashly selected, cliché-ridden images damage the credibility of your brand.

For example, if a visitor to your site—a potential customer— sees an image of an attractive customer service representative with a shiny new headset, then they see the same attractive model and shiny new headset on another website, it makes your company look canned. As if, no pun intended, you’re “phoning it in.”

The first semi-suitable image found is often the one selected

Further, how weird will it be for your new clients when they find out that the team of people shown in that “business meeting” photograph on your About Us page doesn’t have any of your actual employees in it?

Do you see where this is going? Do you see the potential damage?

10 of the worst stock photo clichés

These concepts should generally be avoided like the plague, unless you are trying to be ironic, humorous, or you don’t have another option/give a damn.

In reverse order:

10. The Target
dart board

Ready. Aim. Fire…you just put a dart in the forehead of a potential customer.

9. The Cupped Hands
image showing hande with a leaf growing out of it

Sing-along Time: “I’ve got the whole world in my hands.”

8. The Superman
Image showing a man in a suit ripping his shirt off

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s super-businessman! He rips open his shirt and reveals…his hairy chest?

7. The Rainbow Eye
close up image of an eye

Look deep into the future eyes. You are becoming sleepy…or dystopian.

6. The Handshake
two people shaking hands

Nothing says serious business deal like two hands shaking.

5.  The Overtly “Staged” Meeting
Businesswoman consulting a partner

Look how perfect this moment is! Everything on the table is artfully placed in a way that just shouts “look! We’re leveraging synergy!”

4.  Writing on the Board
Close up of male hand filling in planner board in office

This may be the guilty pleasure of stock photo clichés. When it comes to problem-solving—nothing quite says, “I’ve got this” like a whiteboard marker. It’s good, but its overused, which makes it bad.

3.  The Huddle
The huddle

This is the ultimate go-to image for anyone trying to represent “teamwork.” Isn’t there anything better out there, like a team of people actually working?

Extra cheese points if the people in the image are wearing business suits.

2. The Clinically Antiseptic and Overly Attractive Customer Service Team
Business woman wearing headset working on computer with colleagues

Everyone knows these are just representations of the idea of “customer service.” Right?

Hey, wait a minute. Is that soft-focus beard-guy picking his nose? Hopefully you didn’t pick this one to use.

And the most groan-worthy, forehead-slapping stock photo cliché is:

1. The Unintentional Technology Anachronism
Old computers

If the person in your stock photo is using a computer running Windows 95 or Mac OS 8 you got a problem—an “image” problem. (get it?)

Use More Original Photography

Every business should use as much original photography as possible in their communications, particularly when trying to represent themselves and their employees.

For many small and midsized businesses, the idea of hiring a professional photographer can sound expensive. But, the actual cost of hiring a photographer pales in comparison to the long-term benefits of using photographs featuring your company, employees and stakeholders.

And—I’m going to share a semi-secret that pro-photographers don’t want you to know—if you are truly in a pinch, someone with a good eye and a decent smartphone can take a pretty good digital photo or two.

Whether you hire a pro (always recommended) or Shanghai one of your employees with a decent amateur photography skill, by using original photography, you won’t run the risk of getting ‘caught’ using the same photograph as someone else.

Don’t Get Me Wrong, I Love Stock Photography

Stock photography fills an important void. It allows businesses to use lots of visual content on a variety of different subjects without a hefty price tag.

There are a lot of incredibly bad stock images out there. Depending on your search terms, there may be pages and pages of cheesy, lame, and poorly shot stock photos before one image that communicates the right message.

Good stock photography should complement the message you are trying to convey, not distract from it. It should support your brand standards and portray a sense of quality that would make mom proud.

As a graphic designer, I can honestly say that finding good stock photography takes time (sometimes a lot of time) and it really does take a level of professional skill to implement. But, just as bad stock photography can damage your brand, good stock photography can heighten it. There are many creative and well-taken stock photos out there to be found.

If you regularly use stock photography for business marketing, have stock photo guidelines included as part of your brand guidelines. This will help keep your brand’s identity in tip-top shape and free of bad stock photography decisions. Oneupweb can help.

What stock photos make you cringe when you see them? Are you guilty of using cheesy stock?

Additional Image Credits: Eye: 96dpi, Hands holding tree:  l.ili.an, Old computer: Wikipedia Commons, Meeting: InternationalHouseManchester, Huddle: moodboard

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