Do you use stock photography in your online and offline marketing? Say yes – you are not alone.

Home pages, landing pages, blog posts, eBooks, social media posts – you’ve likely seen and perhaps used your share of headset hotties, handshaking business dudes, and genuinely generic graphs.

Stock imagery, when used appropriately, can help differentiate your firm, personalize your brand, and tell the right story to your target personas. The largest stock houses, like iStock and Shutterstock have thousands of terrific and on-point imagery as well…in addition to video, GIFs, and illustrations.

However, overused and generic visual imagery can telegraph a firm’s laziness and lack of credibility.

After all, how many words is an image worth? Probably more than 1,000.

The following ten stock imagery ideas to stay away from apply just as much to financial advisors, RIAs and investment managers as to any business.

Please don’t use the following (or similar) overexposed stock images on your website, pitch books, eBooks, email marketing, and other marketing materials:

1. The Handshake

You’ve probably seen multiple variations of the handshake shot: The businessmen in a suit handshake; the business-women in suit handshake; the multi generational handshake; and the ethnic diversity handshake are among the shakiest of stock photos. 

2. The Bulls Eye

Do you help clients reach their targets? Are you always on target? You may have seen this stock photo before. Don’t use it your marketing. 



3. The Running Guy in the Suit

The running businessman image must also have a briefcase to clinch the cliché. What is the running guy running to…or from?



4. Ariane, the Overexposed Stock Image Model

You’ve seen her everywhere. She’s an attractive smiling young model with Asian features. She’s on websites, magazines, billboards, and social media sites in the United States, Australia, Europe, and perhaps the moon. Ariane also has her own Facebook account as “Ariane, the Overexposed Stock Image Model.” She’s an attractive woman, to be sure, but with her image everywhere, the chances that she could represent your brand with distinction are minimal. Too many samples to choose from, see above left for one.

5. The Smiling Headset Woman

You probably know this woman, too. She’s the happy helpful call center rep in perhaps Bangalore who’s available to answer all of your questions.



6. The Glass Whiteboad Guy

Not everyone has a transparent glass wall to write brainstorm ideas on. Does your firm?




7. The Youngish-Looking Gray Haired Couple on the Beach

Where do they make these people? In the model factory, perhaps.


8. The Retirees Sailing into the Sunset

A corollary to the happy-seniors-on-holiday image is the sailboat of your dreams shot. If only all retirement imagery actually reflected actual people’s retirement realities and objectives.


9. The Generic Graph

Arrows up! But some must go down – if you’ve talked to your legal or compliance officers who note that you can’t promise all will go up all the time. Better perhaps to show an actual graphs with actual results.


10. The Red Robots Visual

If “generic company” is what you’d like to portray your firm as, definitely use one of these red robot images. Or not.