When (and How) to Use Stock Photos on Your Website

When (and How) to Use Stock Photos on Your Website

Practical Advice for Stock Photo Use

There are some purists out there who believe: “Never use stock photos on your site!”

In an ideal world, you have a wealth of photos to pull from, or the finances/skill to create the photos for your site.

However, I have found this isn’t practical for all business all of the time. And it’s not always necessary for the business to stay completely away from stock photography either.

You can have a welcoming site and still use stock photos at times.

Here are a few parameters to guide you through your decision-making when and how stock photos on your site.

You’re new in business and it’s more important to get your website up than to invest time and/or money in original photography.

Your website is your number one business tool. If you’re new in business, taking the time to put together original photography may need to be put on hold. This is especially true if photography is a realm you are not comfortable with or you do not yet have the funds to hire it out professionally.

It’s more important that you get your digital property up and running. You can, and should, improve your site as your business and the understanding of your audience grows. Better photography can come into play later.

The target audience of your website are not designers or front-runners in technology and will be less critical.

If you are a photographer, this advice is not for you. Obviously. You’re going to want to showcase your original photography work loud and proud.

However, there are many local businesses whose clientele are unlikely to be critical of this type of thing.

While I would likely recommend you include photos from your office, your staff, or candid photos with clients. Those photos may not always be of good enough quality to headline a page. You may want to use a stock photo in this case.

When you use stock photos, stay away from those that feel unnatural.

When you use stock photos, looks for photos that are unique, welcoming, and are less contrived.

Three people standing around a laptop sitting on a desk with fake smiles on their faces probably never happens in real life—so don't use it on your site.

Use an overlay to lessen the focus on a stock photo yet still provide visual interest.

Scroll up and check out the header on this blog page. We generally use stock photos for our blog posts.

However, on the blog post page, like this one, there is an overlay which drives the focus away from the photo and onto the headline of the article. Yet, there’s still the visual interest of the photo in the background.

For more information on using photos on your website, including some great free resources for stock photos, check out our post, “Your Guide to Website Images: 8 Common Questions Answered.”

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April Mann

April Mann used to be co-owner and Digital Marketing Strategist for Magnified Web. Now she currently works at ESRI as a Web Content Specialist. Get more from April on the Magnified Web blog.

April Mann, Co-owner of Magnified Web
April Mann, Co-owner of Magnified Web

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