10 Annoying Stock Photos I Never Want to See Again

content marketing, content strategy

September 26, 2013 by

Most businesses today use stock photography in their digital marketing. From home pages, to landing pages, to blog posts and more—headset hotties and the teams they work with are everywhere.

But are we selling ourselves short by taking the easy way out and selecting a stock photo to support our message and enhance our brand, when instead we could create truly meaningful visual content that differentiates us, humanizes us, and increases credibility? I think we are.

So let's aim higher, and start by committing to never using one of these downloaded-more-than-9000 times, seen-it-all-over-the-internet, generic stock photos in our marketing, ever again.

1. Benjamin, the child superhero

Kids are cute. Superheroes? Eh. But superhero kids? Definitely cute the first time. And maybe the second time. But not the 10 millionth time. I've seen at least a dozen "Be a [insert word] hero" campaigns with little Ben, so I think it would be a good time for him to retire and experience childhood, or at least score some better gigs modeling for Flintstones vitamins.

Hopefully, Benjamin's parents won't pull a Macaulay Culkin on him and wipe out all the money he earned while fighting evil in his underwear, and they'll put it towards his college education instead.

2. Ken, the corporate superhero

So if there's a "Be a [insert word] hero" campaign that doesn't star little Ben, it's because his dad is in it—let's call him Ken.

C'mon B2B marketers—the "be a [insert word] hero" concept is so vague and overdone. Couple that generic message with a photo of Ken and I'm definitely not converting on your landing page. Unless, of course, Ken finally rips his shirt off.  Then it's okay.

3. The bulls eye

Does your organization help clients reach their targets? You've probably used this stock photo in a presentation or two. Yawn. (I'm guessing you didn't win the new business, either.)

4. The running businessman

Excuse me sir, but where are you going? Running away from all the display campaigns that you're in? Yeah, I thought so.

5. Any variation of a "SEO" image

If a search marketing firm guarantees they can get you to the #1 spot in Google, chances are they have one of these SEO graphics on their website. You're probably safer hiring a search firm without a website, than you are hiring these guys.

6. Rebecca, the sexy business hottie

I've run into this woman so many times, I feel like I know her. Often found wearing a headset and a black blazer while working for thousands of different companies across the globe, Rebecca is always smiling (sometimes seductively), her desk is always neat and organized, and she never blinks, eats lunch, or takes bathroom breaks.

I'm not sure exactly what her area of expertise is, but man, can this woman do it all. I've seen her answer phones for companies in the Middle East, peddle nutritional supplements online, work the front desk at a moving company—even serve as an enrollment advisor for a leading online university. Kelly Ripa, watch out! You're not the only woman that can do it all.

hey baby. call me!

Rebecca is also very popular. In fact, 16 of my LinkedIn connections know her. Let's just hope she doesn't start showing up in the SERPs for Google Authorship. We can only hope that the latest algorithmic update included penalizing Google Plus accounts with headset hottie profile photos.

("Rebecca" is actually a real person—her name is supposedly "Anne Sofie" and you can find an entire lightbox dedicated to her over on iStockphoto.)

7. The transparent dry erase board

We all know the best ideas come to us while writing diagrams on a transparent dry erase board. And wearing a suit.

8. The confusing business metaphor

If it confuses you, just think how much it confuses your target audience.


9. The generic business graph

Does you company help other businesses increase productivity and grow? Well, why not demonstrate that with actual results, and not a stock photo that's been downloaded over 10,000 times?

increase productivity


10. The faceless corporate robots

If "soulless, generic, corporation without real people" are some of your brand attributes and your messaging guidelines are straight from the corporate BS generator, definitely use one of these images.

go team

Okay, I admit it. I am guilty of using many popular stock photos, too. Most marketers are. When juggling so many different priorities, it's far too easy to just take a photo of Rebecca and slap her onto a blog post, banner ad, landing page, or white paper.

In an ideal world, we'd all have the resources and time to make every campaign and every piece of content truly unique and remarkable. However, we know that's not always possible, and sometimes, a stock photo is just the visual we need to help us achieve our desired result within our budget.

But as marketers, we can do better. 

We can leverage visual content and imagery to humanize our brand, differentiate it from competitors, make it more credible, and make it more trustworthy.

  • Instead of showing a photo of Rebecca, the corporate hottie, why not show an actual photo of an employee, including their title, and what they do?
  • Instead of using the transparent dry erase board to represent your creativity/strategy etc., why not create an actual graphic with one of your unique ideas?
  • Instead of the cliche corporate team photo, why not introduce your visitors to your actual team?
  • Instead of showing the generic performance increase chart, why not show a real statistic that makes your offering more compelling?

These things might take more resources and a bit longer to create, but the results will make it well worth it.

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