Stock image sites were a great discovery when I started getting into the presentation design business in the early 2000s. In fact, they might have pushed me over the edge in becoming a designer. All of a sudden, I discovered that combining McKinsey-style professional slides with carefully chosen stock images you could make some powerful sales and investor decks.

All of this happened at the same time when very fundamental books by the likes of Garr Reynolds and Nancy Duarte were published, TED talks were taking of, presentations were changing!

Looking back, and looking forward, I see that my presentation style has changed. The biggest change: far, far fewer (premium) stock images. How come? Post-rationalizing:

  • I got much better and assessing the setting in which the presentation would be delivered. And very rarely do I design presentations for a massive keynote or TED Talk. Most of the time, these are decks that will be presented in a small conference room, to a small audience. And more importantly, the first "punch" that these decks need to deliver is in the email inbox, when an investor or potential customer decides to keep on clicking (or not). More and more, I am starting to design these presentations for the impatient attachment clicker, and less for the live audience. This means: fewer images, and yes denser content. It is cumbersome to maintain 2 versions of a document (one for sending, one for presenting), so in practice the live audience is suffering a little bit at the expensive of the email attachment reader.
  • Investor and sales audiences have evolved. Pitches have a high degree of similarity, they all follow a similar pattern, companies are addressing similar types of problems, pitching similar types of technologies (investors are increasingly specializing), so I see less need to "wow" the audience with dramatic new concepts (self-driving cars) but rather focus more on the nuts and bolts of an innovation. Investors are clued up, and look for the substance, quickly clicking through the pretty pictures. 
  • The premium stock image sites are collapsing under their own success. Image banks are diluted with designs that are somewhere between an actual clean photo and a finished design concept. Quality is technically good, but artistically "cheesy" and staged. Opening these sites as a designer makes you instantly feel that you are "in the wrong part of the Internet" And I am sure that even the layman designers gets totally confused when browsing these image sites.
  • Free alternatives to paid stock image sites are popping up everywhere. If you need an image of the tip of an iceberg, you can find pretty decent ones on Google Image search (use the labeled for re-use option), WikiPedia or one of the many free stock image sites (that try to lure you into buying premium images that are often not better). 
  • And finally, I think it is a matter confidence and experience, where I somehow found a personal design style that involves fewer images.