Have you ever noticed how ridiculous certain stock images are? Companies and customers have poked fun at them for years, but for some reason, so many of us fall into the trap of using generic stock photos. Remember: visual content drives engagement. You need to use the right visual content though. Not the awkward stuff.

Why you need images

The first question you need to answer is why you need images. Don’t worry, I’ve answered the question for you.

  • SEO optimisation: By optimising your images, such as adding alt text, you can generate more traffic to your. Not only will your written content show in searches , but your visual ones will too
  • Social Media: When sharing content on social media, visual cues and imagery attracts the attention of the user. It increases the click through rate to your website
  • Ecommerce Site: Similar to social media, a highly visual ecommerce site is more likely to create conversions
  • Branding: The imagery you use encompasses your brand identity. It will give consumers a sense of who you are as a company
  • Potential Backlinks: Particularly if you make your own imagery and/or graphics, they may be used on another site. That means you might get a ‘follow’ link to your website which will help your

Examples of Bad Stock Images

If you don’t quite get what I’m referring to, here is a list of generic imagery to avoid at all costs. Mentally prepare yourself for the tackiness of it all.

Over Exaggerated Emotions

Quite frankly, I’ve never seen anyone look like this, ever.

Angry man speaks on the phone

Here is another set of strange stock images: the infamous women laughing alone with salad Tumblr page picked up a lot of attention for this.

woman laughing with salad

Try and go for a touch of realism. You don’t want someone looking that scary explaining the joys and wonders of your product or service. It just isn’t natural.

Abstract images

You ultimately want your user to relate to the imagery you’re using. Abstract images, mods and other abstract graphics aren’t going to cut it. Honestly, how much do you relate to this guy?

Business People

Overly organised and happy business people are, well, a huge NO. Innocent hit the nail on the head with their light-hearted banter that started a twitter sensation about water cooler stock images. Take a look for yourself.

Just odd really. How often do you take a team photo looking like that?

Words, words, words

A personal pet hate are these types of stock images. It is ultimate desperation when you have to rely on a loosely related collection of words in a terrible font to represent your article. Just… no.

Bizarre situations

To get your point across, you don’t need someone in an extreme or weird situation.

Businessman Using A Laptop On A Surfboard

What could you possibly be writing about that would make sense to use that rather stock image?

Low Res Images

Low resolution images doesn’t just look bad, it takes away any professional credibility that you have. As a start up, that is of paramount importance to keep that credibility.

300 dpi (dots per inch, also known as ppi) for print formatted in CMYK or at least 72 dpi for web, preferably HEX or RGB formatted.

The Alternative

Now that I’ve ridiculed half of the industries out there with their horrendous choice of imagery, here are 5 steps to choosing the right type of visual content.

1. Brand Identity

Somewhere down the line you’ll need to decide what exactly your brand identity is. This includes colours, fonts, icons and imagery your company uses. It would be out of place to have one blog post with a coloured photo if your entire branding was all black and white. Your brand identity should encompass every aspect of your company. You should compile all this information in a style guide to keep your branding consistent. Don’t worry, brand identity is always open to evolution.

2. Relevance

Now that you know the style of imagery to use, the next question is: Is it relevant to the article? A word cloud or abstract images should not be used for a post on social media. Instead, find something more relevant.

[image comparison]

3. Humour

If the obvious choice isn’t out there, why not edit a photo with some text and make it funny. A dash of irony or humour can go a long way. This M&S post is brilliant for just that.

[image of ‘Thongs’ when expanding to aus]

4. Your own imagery

La crème de la crème would be to make your own imagery. This is more time consuming, but all you need is a camera and a few photo editing skills. Moreover, of someone uses your images, you’re likely to get a backlink which will boost your SEO rankings.

[venn diagram coffee stain]

5. Quality

If you are buying stock images this shouldn’t be a problem, however it is of utmost importance that your images are the right dimensions, file size and dpi or ppi (that’s dots per inch or points per inch). Make a template for your image, resize the selected image to fit and apply any effects or filters that you need. Then, make sure the dpi is correct and use the ‘save for web’ option for good online quality and smaller file sizes. If you can optimise the file size further, do so.

Be careful with your own photography. If you can avoid using pictures taken from a phone, do. There is nothing worse than a pixelated picture on a professional website.


Moral of the story: stock imagery is fine, just make sure it is relevant, realistic and high quality. If you have time to make your own, definitely get on it! Make sense? If you have any questions or thoughts, please share in the comment section below.

For more information, checkout these 10 do’s and don’ts.