Brand Strategy Marketing Campaign Brand Design Boldfish

Stock photos – beware the underdose of imagination

Buyer beware

Stock photos can be a quick and an affordable alternative for smaller marketing objectives if you need imagery and don’t have a lot of time or resources. But before defaulting to a stock photography site for your next homepage, blog post or EDM banner image there are a number of pitfalls to be wary of. A picture says 1,000 words but are your pictures saying the 1,000 words you want? Image quality affects the perception of your content’s quality, so take the time to ensure your imagery compliments your message and your brand story.


You don’t always need an expensive original photo shoot to make your point. When time is of the essence, stock photo files are available online immediately with a huge range of images to select from. You can download low resolution placement images that can work for drafting documents and ideas as a visual starting point to help communicate an idea or direction.


Stock imagery may have some strengths, but originality is not one of them. If you visit any stock photo site you will be bombarded with staged, generic, outdated, awkward, highly literal and overused imagery that can create an unwanted impression for your brand. Overly-ecstatic employees cheering, people running in business suits, hands on hands teamwork, street signs with customised text, people giving high fives or a thumbs up are some examples of clichéd images to avoid like the plague.


It’s also important to remember that stock images can also be bought by anyone (exclusive rights are an expensive alternative) and you run the risk of using the same images as another businesses making your brand look tired, unoriginal and even fake. Stock images are never intended for a specific idea and are usually vague and generic in their execution and when used can often creates the impression that your content will be too. So if you have a great idea for a campaign you will almost certainly not find an image executed in a way that captures your individual message or brand from a stock photo library.

A few tips for using Stock photos

  • Choose photos that will provide you with adequate space for text
  • Choose correct orientation for the end asset
  • For people images use real looking people (attractive doesn’t mean effective) that don’t look at the camera
  • Overlaying colour filters over images can add subtle link to your brand palette
  • Avoid being too literal and consider the broader theme of what you are trying to portray
  • Avoid photos of technology where possible as they become quickly outdated
  • Avoid motivational words and literally spelling out thoughts and words in images

So before using stock imagery consider the implications for your brand and message and be mindful not to say cheese.

Interested in learning how to create more authentic content to enhance your brand story? Contact Rohan below to touch base and discuss how personalising your brand’s content could benefit your business.

Rohan Berzins
Creative Director – Boldfish


Rohan is the founder of the brand-led creative agency Boldfish ( specialising in brand strategy, campaigns and communications. He brings a wealth of experience having worked with a diverse range clients and industry sectors ranging from startups right through to global leaders for over 18 years.