Stock images are sort of a necessary evil in the world of design. When used properly, they can be inspiring, appropriate–even beautiful.

But when we just carelessly slap an image on something and call it a day, bad things can happen.

Often times, designers get caught up in the creative things like color and overall appearance. But we need to take a step back and really think about the target audience we are trying to connect with.

If you carefully analyze an image, it might not convey the message you really want it to.

Let’s look at some examples.

1. Weight loss is easy and fun!

Have you ever tried to lose weight? It’s a terrible experience, right?!

Between depriving yourself of your favorite foods and putting your flabby body on display in a gym full of gorgeous people, weight loss sucks.

So, don’t you just want to punch this girl in the face?

happy weight loss easy weight loss generic image

Images like this would only encourage people who don’t need it—the ones who are health nuts and actually do feel this way about exercise.

If you are marketing to people who need to lose weight, you’re probably dealing with fear, embarrassment, and even depression. The last thing those people need is another reminder of what they aren’t.

2. Exercise is sexy!

I get that, as a marketing professional, you want to show the client’s products or services in a positive light. You want people to associate those services with results.

But this just doesn’t seem encouraging or realistic. What, exactly, is she even measuring?!

sexy weight loss

Oh that’s what she’s measuring. This image is titled: woman measuring perfect shape of beautiful hips.

Of course, this isn’t as pretty. But it is at least relatable.

belly fat image

3. Health food is sexy too!

It’s doubtful that even a hard-core vegan feels sensually about the foods she eats. So what’s with all this?!

generic salad picture

health foods generic image

Even the chick in the background is intrigued.

generic salad photo

She’s eating salad…in bed!


4. I don’t need to work…my colleagues have got my back.

We’ve all seen those hilarious posts with awkward family photos. Unfortunately, stock images aren’t much better.

generic pharmacy

common handshake

5. Our clinic is so nice, we don’t let anyone inside.

We’ve all been inside a doctor’s office or a hospital—probably more than once. Did any of your visits look like this?

empty hospital

Wouldn’t you run in fear if you saw a place this empty?! Where are the doctors bustling about to save peoples’ lives? Where are the nurses monitoring all those beeping machines? Where are the files that tell the professions to remove that guy’s appendix and not mine?!


6. This diversity is totally natural.

How wonderful that patients from any ethnicity can relate to someone on these health care teams. That is so totally natural.

generic deiverse image

generic nurse photos

7. I didn’t pay attention to what you’re talking about.

Let’s take a few of these stock image fails and look at them in real life. The images themselves are questionable; but put them with the headline and they become even more comical.


This image was featured on an article titled Simple Ways to Help Yourself Relieve Performance Anxiety. The article provided tips to address erectile dysfunction, low libido, and other male sexual health issues. Do you see the irony?

real life

Here’s another great one – The Best Supplements to Fight Fatigue. Most people who are fatigued feel like they’ve been run over by a truck. She apparently bears the pain and suffering quite well. If this is what she looks like tired, she looks a million times better than all of us when she’s well rested.

This looks more like a post about fighting insomnia.

fatigue image

8. I didn’t look at the big picture.

As a grand finale, we’ll leave you with this gem. We’re not sure if this was an accident or a brilliant design idea, but the people looking for vitamin injections sure do get a laugh. Maybe that was the point…to let laughter take the sting out of the potentially painful shot?!

improve your health

We both loath and love stock images. It’s entertaining to poke fun at these images, but using them in a design project really could be detrimental.

What are your favorite stock image fails?


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