Stock images that have been done to death

Bonsai tree growing in handsGot a product or service to advertise that can’t be photographed? Are your workforce just not pretty enough? Then you should use stock photography!

Or should you? In my last article I highlighted the dangers of using stock photography when I saw a photo I’d uploaded to a client’s website on TV. I’ve had to search stock photography websites many times for clients, and I’ve seen the same faces popping up time and time again all over the place (and all over the world in some cases!): on websites, billboards, posters, leaflets and packaging designs.

So I’ve compiled a list of photos I see everywhere. Maybe you’ve seen these too? Maybe you’ve even used them in your own projects (if so, I apologise now for what follows, but you might want to choose some new images!).

The main culprits:

Writing on screen guy

Man writing on screen

Who is this guy and why is he writing on the inside of my screen? I usually see this blurry-faced pen wielder advertising web and IT services, sometimes drawing a meaningless diagram or chart of some sort.

Mr Everyman

I’ve seen photos of this guy everywhere: leaflets, websites, in shops, on a bus – I just can’t escape from his cheesy stock photo face!

Mr Everyman

What is it that makes him so popular? Was there a study done that proves his face appeals to the widest audience? Maybe he’s liked by all genders, ages and races. Statistically his face seems to be able to sell anything to anyone. Maybe it can also stop wars and poverty?


Ahh, the good old masculine handshake! Representing trustworthiness, cooperation and partnership.


I know what is symbolises, but I’ve just seen so many dry corporate websites using this same image, that I’m bored already. Can’t they think of something more original?

Tree growing in hands

Bonsai tree growing in handsIt’s the ideal image to symbolise growth: nurturing a little tree in your hands. A popular choice for websites claiming they’ll help grow your business (and maybe those selling bonsai trees).

Headset woman

Woman with headset

What’s with photos of incredibly attractive models with headsets? I suppose there’s nothing wrong with showing to your clients and customers there’ll be a friendly young woman taking your call, but photos like these are so common you’re not fooling anyone that she works for you!

Grey-haired businessman

Grey-haired businessman

This is one of iStock‘s most downloaded photos of businessmen. Just type that in and I bet he’ll be on the first page. He’s also used in a lot of group shots, and I think I know why. You might see him mixed in with the handsome, young businesspeople so you can prove your organisation isn’t ageist.

He reminds me of Harold Bishop from the Australian soap Neighbours.

Towering office building

I’ve seen loads of photos like this on corporate websites where there’s an unwritten rule that all workplaces should be towering glass office buildings.

Office building

They seem to be claiming that this is their immaculate and expensive office building, although in truth it’s a pokey office just off the M6 near Stoke. Just who do they think they’re fooling?

Are there any more over-used stock images that you’ve seen again and again? Put a note in the comments and share them!

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  • Heather Wood

    This was hilarious. I see that headset woman EVERYWHERE!

  • Heather Wood

    This was hilarious. I see that headset woman EVERYWHERE!

  • Andreas Belivanakis

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

  • guest

    I’ve used two of these in recent projects. My company loves to reuse stock. -_-

  • David Higley
    • David Ball

      Very funny! But some of those must be fakes, surely? Especially the little girl with the Hitler face!

    • Sebastiaan Stok

      Number 53 is not useless, its a “Zwarte piet” from the Dutch and Belgium holiday called Sinterklaas (no, that not the jolly big guy) that takes place in November. Sinterklaas is a bishop from the 1300 (or something like that) that gives presents to children (its a little like Christmas but takes place before Christmas, and Sinterklaas is considered a holly man, while Santa is a jolly man).

      His helpers (the pieten) are black because in the time, this tradition was introduces, slavery was legal (so yes its little racist) but in todays tradition they are black from going up-and-down the chimney. Children paint there faces black to look like a piet. Its just how you look at it.

  • Oisin Conolly

    haha, love it. Funnily enough I actually work near stoke just off the M6 :P

    You wont find buildings like that anywhere near us

  • David Higley

    And the classic collection of women laughing alone with salad

    • David Ball

      Wow, since when did this become “a thing”?! I bet I’ll see these all over the place now

    • David Ball

      I just noticed, picture #14 is Mr Everyman in a woman’s wig! Isn’t it?

  • Cshmoove

    I assume you’ve never heard about 

    • David Ball

      I’ve not seen that site before, but I noticed that the one called “Turkish Headset Hottie” is the girl I used in my article

  • Gordon McLachlan

    Ahh the good ol’ businessmen shaking hands… where would be without them?!

    Oh and you forgot the classic “goldfish jumping out of bowl” shot ;)

    • David Ball

      You mean this one?
      I haven’t actually seen this that often

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  • Viorel Dudau

    These days we have the social media guy, at least until Facebook keeps starring our lives :))

  • Jak

    Interesting article!

  • Konstantin Meier

    you forgot the keyboards with icons

  • Simon Bennett

    OMG – how dare you expose my entire image stock portfolio. I’ll have to find some new ones now. Bring on Google images….

  • Robb Edwards

    Didn’t you get the memo? The businessmen shaking hands has been replaced by MULTICULTURAL handshaking. Then you are gold.