Skip to main content
Content Marketing

5 Stock Photo Trends That Need To Die

As creatives, we’re naturally fans of photography – more specifically, custom photography – and try to bring in authentic imagery to every project. However, the moment frequently arises for us to resort to stock photos as a way to stay within budget. While we can often find an image suitable to the project, that process involves sifting through dozens of WTF photos.

With all of the great options out there for stock photos (many are often free), what better time to clean the slate of shitty stock photo trends? The following five are representative of terrible concepts that just need to go.

“The Pointer”

If you haven’t seen many uses of this “faceless man pointing to generic floating shit” in the real world, the reason is simple – this concept sucks. This low-rent Tony Stark idea is rampant on stock photo sites and we have never had – nor will ever have – a need for something this dumb. Go hit the showers, Mr. Headless Suit Man With Big Hand.


We’ve all seen these in some form or another: cheesy photos of people superimposed on a blackboard background (BTW, schools don’t use these anymore) with some obviously-not-chalk drawing to unimaginatively demonstrate a concept. These images range from a child with a halo and wings to this nonsensical image above – all uninspired and far from clever, and we need them gone. Although, the choice of wearing stripper shoes is a bold move.

These Poor Guys

I’ve seen these faceless, nude chalk-men less frequently over recent years, and I think it’s time to do them justice by putting them into retirement. They’re the boy band of stock photography, shuffling around letters and puzzle pieces for well over a decade.  These poor guys need a break – just as much as the world needs a break from seeing them.

Creepy Staring Salespeople

So picture it, you get a letter in the mail from the IRS and it alarms you to the point of cracking open the laptop to find an accountant. On the first website you find, you head to the “About Us” page and the first photo you see is this sleazy creep grinning at you. This is not welcoming – this is weird. It’s disturbing and I don’t want to see people on a two-dimensional surface staring into my soul (remember Ghostbusters 2?).

Puzzle Pieces

This is one of the most ubiquitous metaphors in the industry. It can represent so many things – convergence, symbiosis, teamwork or some other trite business term – but to me, it represents a lazy designer probably less than a week out of school. For all that is holy, stop phoning it in with the puzzle images.  Nice watch, though.

And One to Keep: Whatever the Hell This Is

Do I really need to explain this? I hope not, because I can’t – and that’s what makes this image awesome. While we may never use ridiculous images like this in real projects, they’re important just the same. They’re confusing, entertaining and make stock photo browsing a bit more fun to do. So, to all photographers, please stay weird.

Patrick King

Patrick is the Founder of Imagine and advisor to places on brand strategy and creative. His insights have been published in Inc. Magazine, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, and Chief Marketer, among other publications, and shared at conferences throughout the US. He also has an amazing sock collection.

© 2004-2023, Imagine. All rights reserved, whatever that means...