When to Use Stock Images vs Real Images

By: Caitlin Barbin

Stock photography is used because it is often cheap, 'good enough', and easily accessible. However, before you choose this option, you should consider using real photos first and reading up on using stock images. Photos are generally used to engage the viewer, but stock images can have the opposite effect. Website photos that have no meaningful purpose are usually overlooked as filler. Here are a few reasons why you should switch over to using custom photographs whenever possible.

Your website will appear more credible and genuine

Using real photos of employees, products, or services helps tremendously with growing trust or loyalty in a business and its website. There are times when a website's legitimacy is questioned because of an overuse of stock photos. Visitors often look for originality in websites, whether it is a staff photo or images of the location. An eyetracking study showed that visitors spent 10% more time looking at staff photos as opposed to staff biographies. It reinforces that real photos are crucial, especially if your business requires face-to-face interaction. The authenticity of photos plays a large role in building a trustworthy brand.

Related Article: Importance of Custom Photos For Your Practice's Website

You can take photos with your own smartphone

The camera quality of current smartphones is so powerful, you quite often don't need to hire a photographer to take more than reasonable photos for your website (granted lighting is key). It costs less than buying stock photos and you can always edit the photos on your computer or through apps on your phone. Next time when you need photos, give your smartphone a try!

Your original photos can build a strong brand

When users go to your website, they want to know you and your brand. This can be difficult when you have generic photos pasted all over your website. You will also want images for your social media platforms, blogs, print campaigns, and more. You need strong and original photos to make your brand recognizable. Photos that are relevant and high quality often enhance the quality of your website. Ideally, you will want your photos to be as clear and professional as possible.

So should you never use stock photos?

Not necessarily.

There are certain situations where stock photos are appropriate and effective. Here are a few situations when stock photos are useful.

Your location is not appealing

If your space or location is not the most pleasing to the eye, stock photos can fill this gap. However, the important point is to use images with a purpose. You don't want to mislead users about your services, product, or location. Instead you should choose images that genuinely reflect your brand, values, or the work that your business may do. Images with purpose and action will convey a more positive impression than cliché photos that don't have any real meaning.

Your business has privacy restrictions

Not all companies are able to take photos of staff, customers, or location due to privacy reasons. Stock photos can help with that. This way, stock photos will elevate your business or message by providing helpful visuals to the user. Therefore, they can get a better idea of what you’re offering through your website without needing to see you.

You can use stock photos for mockups

Stock photos are a great resource when creating mockups. Mockups help visualize a website or any other designs before the final version. Stock photos fill in the areas, which could be replaced with professional photography later on. This way you can have a semi-finished design to see for yourself. Then you can make concrete edits and notes on what you want to do with your design. Therefore, stock photos are beneficial for bringing ideas quickly onto paper or the screen.

You lack time or resources

At the end of the day, you may just be busy – that's okay. Not everyone can afford professional photography immediately or set aside time to take photos. If this sounds like you, and you need photos for your website, feel free to use stock photography. But before you go looking, here are some tips to make your stock photos look original.

  1. Try using stock photo sites other than major players such as Shutterstock, Getty Images, or iStock. Creative Boom curated a great list of free stock photo alternatives to help your website stand out more. 99designs has also created an extensive list on 30 free public domain image websites that you can check out.

  2. When using any stock photos, it's great to check if other people are using that image. You can use search by image on Google or TinEye.com to find out if other sites are using a certain image. This is beneficial to know because overused stock photos can deter potential business. It's better to check who may be using the image you want before using it.

  3. You can always edit stock photos before using them on your website – get creative! Change the colour, add some text, or combine multiple images. This will boost the interest in your photos and you’ll be a step up from other websites using average stock photos.

When in doubt, use real images or professional photography when you can! 37% of marketers said visual marketing was the second most important form of content for their business behind blogging (38%). In combination with authentic photos, your own photography can increase business and credibility. High quality photos are a worthwhile, long-term investment. If professional photography isn’t an option, you can take your own photos. Lastly, you can use stock photos meaningfully through manipulating the images or choosing images that truly reflect your business/organization. If you’re interested in having your own custom website or you want to improve your social media,or other campaigns, contact us at UpOnline to speak to a representative.