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Do’s And Don’ts Of Using Stock Photos

We have all seen those images on websites that make us cringe – businessmen with briefcases leaping into the air, people standing at the copier with no background, or those images that are so obviously photoshopped that they make the entire site seem like a scam. Stock photos can be a great online marketing tool, but unless you select and use them the right away, they can do more damage than good. Let’s look at some of the best practices and some of the things you should avoid.


First of all, when you’re looking for a stock image, don’t just pick one that everyone else is going to choose. Not only does it make you look like a low-quality, me-too site if people recognize the images from elsewhere, it also means that you are unlikely to get clicks through to your site when people search for images on Google. Avoid searching for obvious generic terms when you are looking for a stock image, such as “business.” This is going to give you page after page of tired, false-looking imagery – such as businessmen shaking hands and intensely interested people gathered round a computer screen. Instead, try to be a bit more inventive with your search terms, and the results will be far better.

Second, feel free to make modifications to some types of image – this often works well when you composite together some vector graphic illustrations. However, it is critical to avoid anything that looks false when you do this – for example, there is nothing worse than adding in your product to an image. You may be trying to make it look like a product recommendation, but your visitors will quickly pick up on this deception and come to the conclusion that you are either dishonest or can’t find a single example of your product in use. What does that say about the value, quality and integrity of your brand?

Third, there is nothing wrong with testing an image out by asking for a reaction from people that you trust. Stock photography sites usually allow you to download a free copy of an image, which is either low-resolution or watermarked. Include this in a mockup of your webpage design, and then pass the link around for others to look at and provide feedback on.


Fourth, remember that while a very literal image may seem like the obvious choice, metaphors can also have a lasting effect on your audience – in fact, in some cases they can be more memorable. For example, if you are promoting a social media advertising platform, you might use a world map that is actually a collage of photos of individual people that your customers could reach if they used your platform. Just avoid choosing metaphors that are actually tired clichés or appear too far-fetched – people will either hate the image or not get it at all, which defeats the purpose of using a metaphor in the first place.

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This entry was posted on Friday, October 4th, 2013 at 7:28 pm and is filed under all .

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