13 Hilarious Examples of Truly Awful Stock Photography

Corey Wainwright
Corey Wainwright



Most marketers are pretty convinced of the importance of using visuals in their marketing. Think about it. There's the rise of Pinterest. The more visual nature of Facebook after the release of Timeline. The popularity of infographics. The general population's short attention span coupled with an overall aversion to reading. After all, a picture says 1,000 words, right?

But are your pictures saying the 1,000 words you want them to? Or are they making you look generic at best, and ridiculous at worst? That's what sometimes happens when a marketer hops onto a stock photography site for homepage photography, slide deck backgrounds, blog post images, and the like. They often end up with stock photos that are generic, impersonal, rooted in no realism of any sort, and as a result, are completely and utterly laughable. It's what marketing strategist and bestselling author David Meerman Scott refers to as "visual gobbledygook," and it's why he often recommends using images of real people (like your employees and your customers) on your website and in your marketing assets instead.

So this post is going to pull out a small sampling of some of the more ridiculous stock photography you might stumble upon in your search for the stuff that's actually good. So when you see stuff like this during your image shopping ... just keep clicking. There's plenty of legit photography and illustrations out there that mean you don't need to settle for the bland and boring.

Free Download: How to Use Photos in Marketing

13 Stock Photos to Never Use in Your Marketing

1) We Work Hard, But We Have Fun

stock photo - we work hard, but we have fun

Also, gravity called out sick that day.

2) I Represent an Attractive Yet Accessible Sales/Support/Customer Service Representative

stock photo - attractive customer service representative

These headsets they give us would be way more helpful if you didn't have to hold the mouthpiece up all day.

3) Best. Meeting. Ever.

stock photo - best photo ever

This meeting is so awesome! And we'll always remember this time we spent together, thanks to the photographer we hired.

4) Lunch Break!

stock photo - lunch break

They can take away my desk, but they can never take away my love for paperwork.

5) Business People Ready to Do Important Business Things

stock photo - business people ready

Yes, this is how we always welcome people to our office. Our enormous, bright white, tiled office.

6) Business People Working Together

stock photo - business people working together

I @*)!&#$ love teamwork.

7) Business Person Carrying Briefcase

stock photo - business person carrying briefcase

That's what business people do. Business people carry briefcases. And pens.

8) Business Person Hugging Briefcase

stock photo - business person hugging briefcase


(Go ahead and poke fun at the laptop-hugging lady on the HubSpot homepage, but at least she's one of our own.)

9) Business Person Being Stressed

stock photo - business person being stressed

I did not need to be cc'd on this.

10) People Collaborating

stock photo - people collaborating

Wait, you guys, what if we tried it in Courier New ...

11) Woman Is Busy

stock photo - woman is busy

Not to be too critical, but I think a lot of your stress here is stemming from a sub-par filing system.

12) Generic Buzz Words

stock photo - generic buzz words

Stand back guys. Innovation is happening.

13) Inspiration

stock photo - inspiration

You sly dog, you ;-)

Bonus: "Businessman in Wheat Field With Briefcase and Balloons"

stock photo - businessman in wheat field with briefcase and balloons

Our homework, ladies and gentlemen, is to figure out for which business this image is applicable. Aaaaand ... go! 

visual marketing


Topics: Images

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