As visual content becomes increasingly important on the internet, it’s important for business owners, web designers, marketers, and everyone in between to come to the same conclusion that millions of others have already reached. That is, stock photography isn’t an ideal solution for quality web design.
While it may be easy to find free stock photography or pay a few dollars per month for the rights to thousands of “premium” stock images, the truth is that these images are cold, recycled, and fake. They lack originality and don’t fool savvy consumers. Let’s review the issue, uncover the facts, and point you in the right direction.
Lack of originality
The issue with stock imagery is that anyone and everyone can use the same images you’re using. You can’t stop your competitor from using the exact same background image, even if you had it first. This is something author Jeanne Grunert learned the hard way when publishing one of her books. Right before publishing, she found that someone else used the exact same image for their book. There was nothing she could do but come up with a new cover, as both authors legally used the image. This isn’t a fun problem to have.
Reverse check images
One simple way to see who else is using your same stock images is to run a reverse search using a resource like Tin Eye or Google’s Image Search feature. Simply plug in the URL to your image and these search engines will let you know who else has these photos on their website or blog.
Lack of quality
How many websites use the same blonde model, smiling at the camera, with a white blouse and Bluetooth headset to convey the image of responsive customer service? While these lovely stock photos may have been effective 15 years ago, they are simply too generic today. Customers see right through theses detached images.
Original means control
When you invest in original photography, you get complete control over all of the variables involved. This allows you to obtain custom images that actually fit your site. In other words, you can design your images around your site, not the other way around. You’d be amazed how much freedom this affords.
Original represents your brand
You have to remember that every element of your website’s design conveys something about your brand. You’re either telling customers that you invest in quality, or that you prefer taking shortcuts. It may not be a direct message, but most customers will subconsciously pick up on it.
Go all in
Here’s the thing – sometimes your only option is to use a stock photo. When you’re in a time crunch, have nothing left in your budget, or can’t possibly take the type of image you need, stock imagery is an easy solution. However, remember that you get what you pay for. Never – under any circumstances – take a stock photo from a popular free site. Instead, buy the rights to unique stock photos that limit access.
Low cost options exist
Many business owners and web designers shy away from original photography because they fear the high costs. Well, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on website images. Thanks to the freelance economy, you can always find talented amateurs and young professionals who are willing to take a job at budget-friendly prices.
As you can see, using stock imagery isn’t a smart solution for effective web design. If you want to engage with users and convey a positive brand image that’s committed to quality and originality, it’s important that you invest in original photography. Whether you want to believe it or not, today’s consumers are savvy internet users and they almost always see directly through cold stock photos.