5 Reasons Why Designers Dislike Stock Photos

  1. It’s almost impossible finding the perfect image,

    There are way too many subtleties and specific elements to consider when using a stock image. Sure, it sounds easy. We have the power of the internet at the tips of our fingers right? Wrong. It is harder to find a stock image than you think (for reasons I will elaborate on further down this list).

    For example, let’s say there is a client who wants a flyer for a children’s swimming program. At first, the designer might search for a random swimmer and add it to the flyer design, but when the client sees it, he or she suggests a bunch of edits to be made.
    The list of revisions might include:

    – “Let’s use a picture of a child instead. Preferably 6-10 years old.”
    – “The program is located in an underprivileged community so try to find a more diverse group of kids.”
    – “Since it is a children’s program, please find a picture with a lifeguard supporting the child.”
    – “We don’t require goggles so no goggles or underwater shots.”

    This is why when graphic designers say that they have spent four hours looking for the right photo, you can trust that those hours were not spent watching viral cute baby hedgehog videos. When people utter the words, “Have you tried…” or “Did you consider…”, the designer has most likely searched through vector images, photographs, icons, jpegs, pngs, other types of graphics, other file extensions, and tried different variations of the wording.

  2. Let alone “free”.

    “Free stock image” image searches and websites are often plagued by images from Shutterstock, iStockphoto, and other payment required websites.
    From a simple Google search of “free stock image swimmer”, only 7 out of the 27 images don’t have a watermark on them.

    Here I highlighted the watermarks in red and adjusted the color levels to make the watermarks more prominent
    Here I highlighted the watermarks in red and adjusted the color levels to make the watermarks more prominent



  3. There are fewer choices after complying with Creative Commons.

    In order to avoid legal and copyright issues, the usage of images and other creative content found online have to comply with Creative Commons terms. This means that if the owner of the content makes the image “all rights reserved”, then you cannot use the content at all. Others might specify if they want attribution or credit for their work, and if it can be used for commercial purposes. Here are some Creative Commons symbols and the meanings.

  4. The abundance of cliché and overused stock photos.


    The business handshake

    The group of people that represents diversity

    The rising bar graph

    Once someone finds a good stock image, there’s a good chance that it will be used a lot. That picture might appear on a retail box, a business promotion, and a local television commercial, and receive over 10,000 downloads from a stock website. If the audience also recognizes the image on multiple platforms and in different places, the sincerity and truth of the brand message weakens.

  5. Stock images water down the design.

    Say you’ve designed a website template for a client and you have to fill certain spaces or frames with images. Unless you go photograph custom images for that particular brand identity, your site will have a more generic feel with stock images. What would be more upsetting is if the client didn’t think you did your job well and that you just copied the design from an existing template. You would lose some credentials due to boring stock images.




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