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Should you use stock photos on your website?

Can sourcing from stock photos result in a high quality look and feel?

Written By:
Paul Wright
Website Design
  • 30/09/2015
  • 5 Mins to Read
  • By: Paul Wright
  • Share

Can you imagine a website without any images? It would look quite bland! Photography helps to set the scene, showcase a product and reflect a company’s brand, but how should you source these images?

Professional photography is personal and authentic, but there is also a time, a place and a budget for stock imagery. Can sourcing from stock result in a high quality look and feel?

Stock photos are cheaper than hiring a photographer, no doubt, but what you save you can sometimes trade off in authenticity if you don’t choose the right images. There are many bad stock photos on offer, often airbrushed to oblivion and with the subjects sporting odd expressions. We’ve often poked fun at some the ludicrous images we’ve found on stock photos sites! This recent Belvita biscuits advert (left) lampoons this perfectly.

We’ve even found a Tumblr blog dedicated to ‘women laughing alone at salad’ – if you work in food and drink this is the kind of stock photography to avoid!

Ways to avoid using bad stock photography

However, it doesn’t have to be like this! There are ways to source good quality stock photography that fits in with your site:

  • Find photos featuring your brand colours
  • Do a little editing – brightness, contrast, colour highlighting all personalises your photos
  • Stick to the same style – using a mish-mash of people, lighting and photography styles can look disorganised
  • Use specific, clear search words to find the right photos for your project– for example if you want to promote woodland activity holidays use ‘man + bike + forest + summer’ instead of just ‘man cycling’

Below is an example of results from basic keywords vs specific keywords. The image on the left resulted from the keywords ‘family holiday’ but the second, better quality image on the right, was from the keywords ‘family holiday countryside evening.’

As you can see using general, broad keywords will bring you a very generic photo with little realism. Adding descriptive keywords results in a more natural photograph with better lighting.

Keywords: 'family holiday'

Keywords: 'family holiday'

Keywords: 'family holiday countryside evening'

We’ve seen a good example of professional looking stock photos library from Lloyds Bank (left). They feature generic situations made to fit the brand by featuring their trademark green colour. We think this may have been achieved with a mixture of high quality stock images and a little editing to include a green tint.

When to hire a photographer

Stock photography serves its place for general, scene setting images and is useful if you produce a lot of content that requires an image, such as blog posts, social media messages. As you may expect, if you are looking for unique images you’ll need to talk to a photographer. Why?

  • The photos will reflect the true nature of your company
  • Authenticity and transparency
  • Easy to achieve a consistent style
  • If done well will look professional and realistic

Every photo has its place

In general, it depends on what the photos will be used for, and the message you want to get across. High quality, less frequently used stock imagery is fantastic for blog posts, social media, website sliders and some print material. Your own imagery, taken by a photographer, is suited to product photography, capturing your place of work and showcasing your staff. If you work in a particularly niche area, stock photography may not be for you.

The photos you use are as personal as your business, and the decision you make is very much dependant on who you are and what you do. You want to show the culture of your company and your photography, stock or otherwise, should reflect that.

Our pointers above will help you to make better decisions about the photos you use, and as a result your website and content will look better too!