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June 22, 2018

Stock Photos vs. Photography in Web Design

Author: Kristen Bachmeier

You’re probably here because you’ve decided on creating a new website. Congratulations! One of the next steps in creating your website involves choosing photos to display on your site. People are visual beings and want to be guided by imagery on your website in addition to the copy. Think of what the end user needs to be able to go to your website, find what they are looking for, complete an action, and move on.

Today’s world is too busy to dilly dally!

Stock photos

Stock photos are a great resource to use when you need high quality, cheap photos. They are a more cost-effective and less time-consuming option than an actual photoshoot. However, stock photos tend to be viewed as less personal, less authentic, or fake to the consumer. When researching a company that requests to use stock photography, I usually search and see what others are doing and choose appropriate stock photos that best match the field. Results can vary depending on your industry.

Industries that I’ve found that struggle with stock photography includes:

  • Medical
  • Technology
  • Business/Corporate/Consulting
  • Financial
  • Real Estate
  • Construction

So why these industries specifically? Most of the images in the stock photo world tend to be as generic as possible so that they can relate to a broad industry. Due to the nature of these industries, most of these end up looking the same and come off inauthentic. They are photos taken with models using props from people who don’t really know what it’s like to work in the industry.

As a web designer, it’s surprising how many sites I notice have the same images or stock photography model. While there are many stock photography sites, they all pretty much have the same content just at different prices. There are free options for stock photography too, however, these resources are becoming more and more slim to come by and used by many others.

My Recommendations

If you want the best bang for your buck I’d go with the following sites:

I would definitely not go with these sites:

(Though these sites have great and unique imagery, they are ridiculously expensive. Might as well have a photoshoot!)

Professional photography

Appearance is everything. You want your website to convey a message to the user and tell a story about who you are, what your company does, and how they can benefit from your services. Your website is often the first impression that people have of your business and first impressions are everything! For some, professional photos give people the security they need to choose your business instead of competitors. You want to make sure that your online presence is appealing and welcoming to any potential customers.

So why is getting with a local photographer important? They can help you build your brand, edit images (sizing, files types, etc.), and relay this imagery across all media platforms (Print designers, web designers, marketing teams) to make sure that your audience receives your brand’s image in a crisp, consistent, and clear manner. By establishing a personal and consistent theme for your website, your business will grow.

It all comes down to budget

Ultimately, pricing is the deciding factor here in choosing stock photos or professional photography. But it doesn’t have to be just one or the other. I have found that sometimes a great and budget-friendly option is to use a combination of both photography and stock photos. I will always recommend photography because it gives the designer more to work with instead of them spending hours looking on stock photo sites, through hundreds of photos attempting to follow your branding with unrelated work.

Kristen Bachmeier

Kristen Bachmeier is Atilus' Director of Operations and helps to oversee all client accounts and day-to-day operations. Kristen also has a background in digital marketing, and has been working in the digital marketing space since 2012.

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