Stop Using Bad Stock Photos

by | Jul 22, 2015 | Web Design

If you’ve ever been on a business website, you’ve seen them. Over-used stock photos. Smiling Call Center Girl and her huge headset, Power Handshake Guys, and Happy Team Giving Thumbs-up are the heroes of the business website. The adage says “a picture is worth a thousand words”, and it’s true. The right picture can quickly communicate an idea or a feeling more eloquently than paragraphs of flowery text. But the wrong picture can say just as much about your business.

The first website I built was for my own company, Leader HQ. Leader HQ provided leadership training and consulting for businesses, and what says business better than photos of smiling employees? I purchased several photos of bright, well dressed young employees and their boss, then sprinkled them liberally around my site. As a small business owner, I thought the site looked pretty good. It looked like the other corporate sites out there. It REALLY looked like the other corporate sites out there.

Disloyal Employees

Loyal Employee, Sucky WebsiteBefore too long, I saw my fictional employees “working” on other websites. They worked in a wide variety of industries, in countries around the globe. They were some of the hardest working folks on the internet. I found them at an Argentinian mining company, a German travel agency, and a pest control business among many others. I quickly realized just how common it was for these pictures to be used, and made a game of finding my stock photo models in the wild. I’ve grown to admire photographer Yuri Arcurs for being one of the most prolific photographers in the world. You may not know his name, but you definitely know his work.

Are You Saying That I Can’t Use Stock Photos?

Nope, didn’t say that. What I’m saying is be conscious of the images you use on your website. The down side of royalty-free stock photography is that many people in your industry may already be using the same images as you are. Before choosing a stock photo, why not use photos that reflect the reality of your business? If it’s not already, the smartphone is the best selling camera of all time. It’s possible to produce digital photos with your phone with better quality than digital cameras from just a few years ago. However, while it’s possible to take great photos with a smartphone or your camera, it doesn’t mean that you’re skilled enough to do it. If you want something unique (or in focus), you may need to contact a professional. If you do hire a photographer, be sure that you understand the licensing and ownership rights for the images.

I Can’t Afford A Photo Shoot

That’s OK. That’s what stock photos are for. Here are some tips for choosing great images for your website.

Don’t be literal – Your photos should try to capture a mood or feeling, not a dictionary definition. If you need an image of an elderly person and their caregiver, don’t just look for people in scrubs and stethoscopes, look for photos of people with their grandparents. If you’re looking for an image to describe friendship, use a photo of toddlers holding hands, teens playing touch football, a dog and cat dozing together, or simply two people smiling at each other. If you don’t limit yourself to literal images, you’ll find the your choices for an interesting image increase significantly.

Optimize the image for size and placement – Plan where your images will be placed before spending money. Think about whether you need a portrait or landscape image. You may have found the “perfect” photo, but it may not fit where you plan. Also, don’t be afraid to crop a stock photo to create a focal point and make it more interesting.

High Quality > No Image > Bad Quality – If you’ve forgotten your elementary school math, here’s the answer: a high quality image is better than no image, and no image is better than a bad image. The quality of the images you use says a lot about your business and can enhance or detract from your brand. Images that are out of focus, poorly composed or low quality can give the impression that your company is out of focus, poorly composed or low quality.

Choosing the right photos for your website can seem like daunting task, but it’s worth the effort. The right photos can help communicate your message effectively and distinguish your company from the competition.

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