Website Content - To Use Stock Photos or Not?

Use real people in your website content.

Including photos in your website content is considered good practice.

A good visual website design has a balance of photos and text. It is considered to be good practice to have a photograph of a person in your website content. This is supposed to build trust with the viewer, specifically if you can see their eyes.

But the Photos Should Be of Real People, Not Stock Photos

Would you use a Stock Photo for your LinkedIn ProfileI was recently researching competition for a new website for a client, a denture clinic. On at least three websites, I noted that the photo on the home page was the same man. A grey-haired smiling man in a white coat, with his arms around a middle-aged woman dressed as a dental nurse. Did this Prosthetist actually work in all three clinics? I doubt it. They were spread across Australia, with totally different business names.

Photos of People Are Good - If They Are REAL People

Eye-tracking studies highlight several "End User Optimisation" features of website content about photos of people.

These include

  • Users differentiate between feel-good, decorative images, and content-related images.
  • Users spend more time looking at photos of real people than free stock photos.
  • On the "About Us" page users spend more time on the photo than the text
  • Photos do create more trust - again real people

A photo on LinkedIn and your Google Business Profile will increase interaction. Would you use a Stock Photo as your LinkedIn profile? No! Well, don't use it on your website.

A good photographer will use their photos to tell a story of you and your business. They will capture you as your clients will see you. And by using these images on your website you will be able to start forming that relationship with your client well before they even make that first contact with you.

Shak Studios' eye-catching business photos really encapture digital storytelling.

Should I use stock images for my new website?

It depends on the message you want to convey. Stock photos can save time and money, but they might not represent your business as effectively as custom photography. Additionally, stock images may not be unique to your website and could be used by other businesses as well. Custom photography allows you to showcase your products, services, and team in a way that is specific to your brand and can help build trust with your audience.

Consider your budget, the message you want to convey, and the overall feel of your website before deciding whether to use stock images or invest in custom photography. Ultimately, the decision will depend on your specific needs and goals for your website. 

What are the benefits of using stock images?

Stock images provide a wide variety of high-quality photos that can enhance your website's visual appeal without the need for a professional photographer. They can save you time and money, as purchasing stock images is often more cost-effective than hiring a photographer or purchasing expensive equipment.

Stock images can also help you maintain consistency in your branding and marketing materials, as you can easily find images that fit your style and messaging across different platforms.
Additionally, using stock images can help you expand your creative possibilities and access to a diverse range of content, as there are thousands of images available on stock photography websites covering various themes and subjects.

Lastly, stock images can save you from potential legal issues, as they often come with licenses that allow you to use the images for commercial purposes without having to worry about copyright infringement. 

Are there any drawbacks to using stock photography to represent your business?

Yes, stock images are not exclusive to your business and may be used by others, which can impact your brand identity and make your website look less unique. Additionally, some stock photos can come across as generic or staged, lacking authenticity and originality. It can be challenging to find high-quality, unique stock images that align with your brand aesthetic and messaging.

Another downside is cost. While stock photography is generally more affordable than hiring a professional photographer, purchasing multiple images for various projects can add up and potentially strain your budget.
Lastly, there is also the risk of legal issues if you fail to properly adhere to licensing agreements or usage restrictions. It is important to carefully read and understand the terms and conditions of using stock images to avoid any copyright infringements. 

How can I find free stock images for commercial use?

Several websites are offering free and paid stock photos with different licensing options. It's important to read and understand the terms of use before downloading any images. 

Here are some popular websites where you can find both paid and free stock images for commercial use:
1. Shutterstock
2. Getty Images
3. Adobe Stock
4. iStock
5. Pixabay
6. Unsplash
7. Pexels
8. Freepik
9. Canva
10. Dreamstime
Make sure to check the licensing options and restrictions for each image before using them for commercial purposes. It's also a good idea to consider purchasing a subscription or credits on the website to access a wider range of high-quality images. 

Why shouldn't I use stock photos for my business?

Stock images often lack the authenticity and personal touch that custom photography can provide. They may not effectively showcase or promote your unique brand identity.

Stock photos don't always align with your brand message, user experience, or design process. They can create a disconnect between your business and your audience.

Using stock photos can also create a lack of originality and creativity in your marketing materials. Your competitors may be using the same images, which can dilute your brand's identity and make it harder for you to stand out in the market.
Additionally, stock photos can be overused and easily recognisable, which can make your business appear unoriginal or unprofessional. Custom photography allows you to showcase your products, services, and team members in a way that is unique to your brand and helps you connect with your target audience on a more personal level.

Overall, investing in custom photography for your business can help you create a more authentic and engaging brand image that resonates with your customers and sets you apart from your competitors. 

User-generated photos make your business seem more real

User-generated content can add authenticity and engagement to your website. Encouraging users to share their photos can be a great way to showcase real experiences with your brand. However, there are some potential downsides to solely relying on user-generated photos as an alternative to stock images. User-generated content may not always meet the quality and consistency standards that stock images provide. Additionally, there may be legal issues to consider, such as obtaining permission to use and distribute user-generated photos.

Ultimately, a combination of user-generated and stock images may be the best approach to create a visually appealing and authentic website. User-generated photos can be used to showcase real experiences and create a sense of community, while stock images can provide high-quality visuals for specific purposes or themes. 


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