We’ve all stumbled across the occasional corporate website that is filled with pictures which are very obviously stock images. You know the ones – photos of smiling, happy people in suits, or perfect looking desks with potted plants and a macbook.
If you’re using a site like Wix or Squarespace to build your website, you’ll gain access to their library of stock images. If you’re using something like WordPress, you’ll need to look elsewhere (Not sure what I’m talking about? Read my article about WordPress vs Wix to get an overview)
I know a few people who are dead against using stock images, and in some cases, I would agree. But there are also plenty of reasons to use them – you just need to bear a few things in mind:
Dos and Don’ts of using stock images
Don’t use stock images instead of real pictures of your staff or workforce
Your website should be a reflection of your business. It should be a place where potential customers decide whether they want to use your services or not. And a lot of the time, internet users are savvy enough to know whether the ‘team photo’ you have on your home page is a stock image or not. Potential customers want to get to know you through your website, and in this case, a stock image might leave them wondering who is really behind the business.
Don’t use the first pictures you find
If you’re going to use stock images, take some time to choose the ones that are right for you. There are literally millions of both free and premium images out there to choose from. If you pick the first ones that come up in a stock image website, the chances are that a lot of other people have used the same image.
Do use stock images to add a bit of colour to your site
One of the best ways to utilise a stock image is as a background for a section of your website that you want to stand out. You can take a nice looking photo, put a gradient over it or fade it a little bit, and use it to draw attention to some text over the top, or a ‘call to action’.
Don’t use stock images instead of your actual products
I shouldn’t have to even say this one, but I have known people to want to do this. If you’re selling a product, you should make it your priority to get a nice quality photograph of it! Using an image of something else that looks a bit like your product is not going to make your customers happy when they receive something that’s not exactly what they ordered.
Do invest in some premium stock images for your website
While there are plenty of free stock images out there, sometimes it’s worth investing in something a bit nicer. The free images tend to be more generic, used more often, and sometimes just don’t look as nice as the premium stock photos you can buy. A website is already an investment, and it’s worth paying a little bit extra to make it stand out from the crowd.
Don’t mix your own images with stock images
Consistency is key, and you don’t want to confuse your visitors. If you possibly can, get a professional photoshoot done, and use those images throughout your website. There are exceptions to this of course – if you’re using a nice image as a background of a section and there’s no reason to change it, then don’t! Just try not to mix your own images with stock images in the same context.
Do use stock images as placeholders while designing your website
If your site is in development and you haven’t got around to getting some professional photos taken yet, I would definitely say go ahead and put some free stock images into the pages. This way, you get more of an idea of what the page is going to look like with images in it. It will allow you to play around with colour and sizing, and you can add your own photos or your premium stock images in later.
Do use stock images on your blog posts
Again, as long as you follow the rules of not just grabbing the first image that comes up, I would say that using stock images on your blog posts is absolutely fine. Blog articles are different to the pages on your website. Your website pages are more about you as a business, and should reflect that as much as possible. For your blog posts, it’s good to have a high quality, attention grabbing image as your featured image. If you’re writing a lot of articles, stock photos are probably the way to go with this.
Don’t use an image without checking if attribution is required
There are many images which are free to use as long as you attribute the original artist/photographer. While it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever get caught out if you don’t provide attribution, it’s just the decent thing to do, right? For blog images, you could just put a small caption underneath that says ‘Image courtesy of …’. For website images, it’s probably best to go with a premium photo, or one that doesn’t require attribution.
Do resize the image before uploading it to your website
Stock images are often very large, high resolution images. While this can be great in some scenarios, using these images on your site as they are can have a devastating impact on your page load times! This can go on to have a negative effect on user experience and SEO.
I’ve written more about how to optimise website images if you want to find out more.
Alternatives to using stock images on your website
Use graphics or icons
If you really don’t want to use stock images, but you don’t have professional photos for your business, you can get inventive with large, colourful icons. If you’re using a page builder, it will probably come with some standard icons, or you can search online for free icon pack downloads.
Be creative with colour and text.
You don’t necessarily need to have any images at all on your site. You can make it bold and attention grabbing with a good use of colour, and some nice typography. Depending on how you’re building your site, you might also have access to background patterns, textures, section dividers and so-on. Just don’t make the site too busy – keep it easy on the eye!
Take pictures yourself.
You don’t necessarily need a professional photoshoot to get images for your website. If you’re handy with a camera (and most smartphone cameras are probably fine for this) feel free to take photos yourself. For product photos, a good, neutral background will go a long way. And if you’re going to take pictures in the workplace, make sure your staff are aware and comfortable with having their photos taken.
Invest in some custom illustrations.
If you want to enhance your brand and really make your website stand out, you could ask an illustrator to create some custom illustrations for the main pages of your website.
Where to get stock images
Free images – These sites have a mixture of genuine, free forever images with no attribution required, and some images where you must attribute the original artist. Make sure to check!
I hope this has cleared up some of your questions about using stock images on your website! Let me know if you have any questions!