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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.”


  1. nwilso wrote:

    I definitely agree with you. And its definitely a “duh” moment. But it is kind of tough because it’s not like we can all go out and take all of our own photos for every design we work on! Suggestions on how we can solve this?

    Friday, March 30, 2018 at 6:00 pm | Permalink
  2. hportil wrote:

    I feel like another big problem is using getting used to using royalty free images because it’s super easy to just grab an image from Google. But you, and possibly your client, can end up in a whole lot of trouble just because you didn’t bother looking for permission to use a photo.

    Friday, March 30, 2018 at 7:05 pm | Permalink
  3. atowner wrote:

    Honestly, the generic cheesy stock photos are so infamous in branding that they’ve become memes on Twitter and Reddit, if that’s any indication of how overdone they are. I agree with this sentiment – pay the extra few bucks for a solid stock photo if you don’t have photography yourself. Say no to generic images!

    Saturday, March 31, 2018 at 8:50 pm | Permalink
  4. dnguyen wrote:

    I agree with this article, this is because there is a big problem with the super easy and cheesy images which companies are using. hence one can come up with a suggestion on how to stop this.

    Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 6:09 pm | Permalink