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Say “NO!” To (Cheesy) Stock Photos

We’ve all been there: you need a photo, FAST, and you just don’t care if it looks super staged and cheesy, so you find the cheapest (hopefully free) stock photo you can find and use it. Maybe you mean to replace it (maybe you forget), or maybe you plan to leave it and move on, but mostly you just need to get that project done. For classwork, this method can really help to alleviate unnecessary stress, and you really can come back to it later, to make it better for your portfolio. However, in the real world, that wiggle room does not exist.

I work as a graphic designer for admissions marketing here at Mason, and every single photo I use is one that can be found on While not stock photos, there are some that feel very similar to them. As the only in-house designer in my office, I’m constantly checking both myself and people who send projects my way to make sure that the images don’t look too staged (unless they are meant to be staged) or cheesy. Why does it matter? Why am I even talking about this? In their article on 2018 design trends, mentioned that consumers are tired of companies using stock photos, and I had a moment of, “I mean, duh,” when I read that; but it can’t be “duh” if people are doing it, so I’m here, right now, begging you to break this habit before it takes its hold. Just say “No.”