Time to purge your material of embarrassing stock shots, writes Ian Whitworth.

Over the last decade the trickledown effect of TED talks has improved the quality of PowerPoint shows dramatically. More pictures, fewer words, less direct reading off the screen. So it gives the audience a much more vivid, instinctive idea of what you’re talking about.

But there are photos and there are… stock photos. The blight of cheeseball stock shots isn’t just infecting presentations. Marketing pitch documents, websites and newsletters are all made visibly worse by generic images that everyone’s seen a thousand times.

Step back and remember that the sole purpose of all of these communication tools is to set you apart from your competitors. Mercifully the ‘keen exec talking on cell-phone’ and ‘white business men shaking hands’ stock images have faded, but there are plenty of other offenders left. Check your material for this Top 10 list of Naff Stock Shot Cliches.

1 Over-The-Shoulder Laptop Pointing

An executive works on a laptop, while someone leans over their shoulder and points at the screen. There will be screwed-up bits of paper on the desk to signify a blizzard of ideas.

2 Attentive Boardroom Audience

Anyone who has done a boardroom presentation will recognise the upright posture, the bright eyes, the applause, the balanced ethnic / gender mix and all the other elements that you will never see in an actual boardroom presentation.

3 Growth Sapling

Growth is good. Every investor and business person wants it. So quick! What’s the first thing you can think of that also grows? Yes, a fragile baby tree, cupped in kind, patient, nurturing farmer-style hands.

4 One Blue Goldfish In A Bowl of Gold Goldfish

Yes, you can help your customers stand out from the others, we get it already. But this concept is used so much it blends in with other presentations like… a regular goldfish.

5 Chess Pieces

We’re both clever and strategic!

6 Perspective Skyscrapers From Street Level

These signify the high-powered world of business. But they actually look like an accidental phone shot you took at a city bus stop.

7 Stack of Flat Pebbles

Meant to convey balance and zen mindfulness, but it just looks like something your small kid did on holidays.

8 Person In A Pool Chair Using A Laptop

Relax while doing business at our hotel! With a laptop so bright you can read it in direct sunlight! You want to look cool doing business around a pool? Image search Elliott Gould in Ocean’s 11, and get some medallions.

9 Suits

Every business person in stock shots wears a suit like it’s 1997. It makes your business look like a spinoff series of LA Law.

10 OMG Problems!

Business marketers truly believe that if a customer were to use their competitors, the customer will have problems. Big Problems. And what do you do when you have Big Problems? You clutch your forehead like you’ve just been shot with a pygmy poison dart. Using your competitors is not physically painful.

There are lots of ways around using stock shots. Hire a photographer to visit your business for a day or so and get some realistic shots you can use for years. Get in the habit of photographing interesting things you run across. The more you do it, the better your shots get.

The habit also teaches you to be observant, which is a really handy skill. Your presentations will go from cheesy fakeness to a much more compelling level of reality.