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Stock photographs can be a great tool for visual appeal, and allow you to use professional images for a fraction of the cost it would take to commission a similar photograph on your own. While stock photos are a great tool, unfortunately people over use the same images—leaving the public with a stock photo overload. These are the top ten over used stock photos, so try to avoid using them when possible.

1) The Business Meeting

business meeting

Unfortunately, over used stock photos are most common in the business world, and this photo may be the most popular one of the bunch. The image is often used to represent ideas of success, teamwork, and cooperation, but too often is cliché. There is rarely a business meeting that is picture perfect, and tense discussions are more common in reality. If you’re tempted to use this image, try using an image that better represents the values and culture of your business.

2) Stress


Another common stock image used in business-focused areas is the stressed/frustrated office image. This scene is commonly used for stress-awareness campaigns in office environments. The image portrays a frazzled individual, who has clearly buckled under the pressure to perform at work. Instead of rehashing this over used image, try using one that more creatively portrays stress (think outside of the work environment).

3) The Recent Graduate


This photo is of the perfect graduate. The student is beaming with joy, and eagerly anticipating success. There are no hints of unease over the impending unknown future, just innocent success. This image is very common for graduation memorabilia advertising and college pamphlets. If you want to use a photo of a student, use one that captures the student in a natural environment, like the library.

4) The Business Plan

business plan

Another common site in business photographs; this image shows a person drawing an apparently blank idea web. This photograph looks painfully like stereotypical stock photography: a non-specific, generic image. If you <i>have</i> to use some sort of photo that communicates planning and idea generating, try to use something more specific to your situation. There are many creative and nontraditional stock images available, you just need to allow for some creativity.

5) Seedling


This seems to be the image people have latched onto when they want to communicate growth in a picture. If you’re talking about anything other than the growth of a plant, this image is irrelevant and obviously stock photography. There are plenty of images that can communicate growth without the use

of a plant, try selecting an image more compatible with your content.

6) The Handshake


This image isolates a handshake in the hope to communicate agreement and compromise. However, the photo is very vague, and is overused because it’s so general. If you want to use an image in a way that represents agreement, there are pictures with at least more than floating hands.

7) A Beachfront Vacation


This picture perfect paradise is often used as the ideal representation of relaxation and bliss, but this beach is almost too perfect. Of course sitting on the beach is wonderfully relaxing, but having a beach all to yourself is a bit much. If you want to use a picture for relaxation purposes, try using less over used images, like a photo where someone is doing some sort of activity on the beach, rather than sitting in the sun. There are also other scenic images that can be relaxing, such as mountain lakes or meadows.

8) Success


This image has been over used for classic motivational posters in schools and around the office. It’s so overly dramatic that one use is enough, but people have killed this image by making it the poster-child for success and determination. Unless literally climbing a mountain means success to the people you’re trying to motivate, use images that people can relate to.

9) Hands Together

hands together

Meant to communicate teamwork and togetherness, this photo is, again, too vague to contribute anything meaningful to your content. Since this image is very general, people will recognize it as an obviously stock photo—something you want to avoid. Try using an image that can bring meaning and relevancy to your audience.

10) The Perfect Family

perfect family

The perfect, white, upper-middleclass children are showcased in this image, complete with perfect smiles and matching outfits. People with children can’t relate to this picture of the ideal. Kids and families are messy, something is always going awry, and that’s what makes families so special. If you use a photo that isn’t realistic, people can’t relate to it. Use a photo of kids being kids—running in the sprinkler or with messy faces and popsicles running down their arms.

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Posted by Rob Toledo

Rob Toledo loves all things design, enjoys CSS3, no longer supports IE7 and can be reached on Twitter @stentontoledo

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