When I say “stock photography,” what do you think of?  Do you conjure up a vision of rows upon rows of ordinary, generic, uninspiring images?

Sadly, stock photos have gotten a bad rap.  Not all sites are terrible and not all images are sterile.  Some sources of stock photography are actually filled with variety.  And if used properly, stock photos can really enhance the design of a site.

However, if used improperly, stock photos can be the demise of an otherwise great website design.  The worst case scenario involves lots of mocking by fellow designers, a dissatisfied customer, and a vote of “unprofessional” from visitors.  The best case scenario isn’t much better; if you’re lucky, your bad stock images will earn your site a ranking of sloppy and dated.

As you peruse the inventory of stock photography, keep these things in mind.


1.  Don’t Be Cliché

How many business sites feature an image of two people shaking hands?  Unfortunately, probably the vast majority have this cliché photo somewhere on their site.  And if your site has the same image as every other niche site, how will yours stand out?  How will visitors know your services are unique if the design looks like everyone else’s?

When browsing image results, sort by any category but “popularity.”  Try “new” or “relevance.”

2.  Don’t be Too Random

Avoid the clichés.  We just covered that.  But don’t be so random your image no longer relates to the content.  If you do, you miss a prime opportunity to set the tone, mood, and subject matter of the site.  Be unique and compelling, but relevant to the brand.


3.  Don’t Be Outdated

Take a good look at the photograph before even thinking about buying it.  Is the person’s wardrobe straight out of the 80s?  Does the photo include a big, chunky cell phone?  Does the computer look like it was one of the first machines to ever roll off the assembly line?

This should go without saying, but make sure you photos are up-to-date!  You don’t want to make your client look obsolete.

Royalty Free image found at… http://officeimg.vo.msecnd.net/en-us/images/MH900399329.jpg

4.  Don’t Go Low-Res

Sure, you might save money right now.  But in the future, that low resolution image could end of up costing you a lot of money.  Clients hire you to provide professional looking sites, not something they could whip up on their own.


5.  Don’t Look Too Professional

Royalty Free image found at… http://officeimg.vo.msecnd.net/en-us/images/MH900443146.jpg


You’re finding it hard to believe I just uttered that last sentence, huh?  It’s probably especially hard to swallow after I rambled on and on about creating a professional design.  Here’s the deal; you need to avoid photographs that are so professional they look staged.


There are some stock photos that were obviously snapped in a studio with a white background.  Using these images will just make visitors even more aware they are on a site that sells something.


Try to find images that use models who look real.  Avoid awkward poses and obvious results of a photo shoot.  If viewers can’t relate to the people in the photo, they won’t connect with the image or the brand


Don’t be afraid to use stock photography – just make sure you use a little common sense when browsing the selection!


2 Responses

  1. Anna
    Mar 14, 2013 - 05:18 AM

    Good topic. I’ve seen so many nice websites with bad images on the home page, directly above the fold. People badly resize photos and use blured ones that look also bad.

  2. Callie Malvik
    Apr 10, 2013 - 10:38 AM

    Such an important factor that people overlook. The image is the FIRST thing a reader is going to see… it sets the tone for the whole article. Thanks for pointing out some important things to think about!

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