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Stock Photo

The use of photographs in graphic design has always been an important aspect of presentation. Today, many designers opt to make use of the millions of royalty-free stock photos readily available on hundreds of websites. While buying these ready-made images is certainly easier than taking the pictures yourself, there are certain drawbacks.

First, the designer runs the risk of having the same picture that has already been used in many other websites or printed materials. This can cause a designer to look as if they are merely a template-designer using premade layouts. If a client is hiring a designer instead of buying a cheap template, the designer has an obligation to at least appear original.

Second, very few stock photos are ever going to be personally connected to anyone’s business. These are images of other people whom the client and designer will never meet and can lead to a misrepresentation of both. I am guilty of using these readily available images and have had users think that the man in the suit on a website was the owner of the company. If there is time and resources available, take your own pictures. By using actual photos of the people a website or flyer is talking about, there will be a true connection between the text and pictures.

I admit that stock photos do have a place and can be used effectively. However, caution should be taken when using these impersonal and pre-made images.

we don't work here

we don't work here


  1. Jandos wrote:

    I hate stock with a white hot passion, for all the reasons you mention, plus one more. It isn’t just that stock looks generic, it encourages generic design thinking. You cannot express an unique and specific and powerful idea with a vague and broadly applicable image.

    Monday, February 23, 2009 at 12:43 pm | Permalink
  2. Kenny Vu wrote:

    I agree. Stock photos will rarely serve the purpose of what we as designers are trying to communicate. I’ve used stock photos for class assignments because I didn’t have the time/budget to take my do a photo shoot, but the photos were so bland that it kind of took away from my design. I guess the phrase “you get what you pay for” applies.

    Monday, February 23, 2009 at 1:38 pm | Permalink
  3. Rebecca Coleman wrote:

    I don’t think that I have ever used stock photos, in school I always worked with or altered something that I had taken or went and shot what I needed, if I couldn’t get what I wanted I changed the direction I was going in. Anything to stay away from generic photos that everyone has. I come from a family of do-it-yourself, never been to a mechanic, id cut my own hair if I could see the back of my own head. I guess that there are so many that odds are that some of them have to be usable but I can’t help thinking how insincere and impersonal they are.

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 9:55 pm | Permalink
  4. Anna DSilva wrote:

    I completely agree with Rebecca. In school I try to only use or alter my own materials or photos. When I create something I want it to be as unique as possible and taking a stock photo from a clip art gallery just destroys that.

    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 7:10 am | Permalink