Web Design Stock Photography Tips

Back when stock photo services first launched, it was easy to choose from a range of cheap images to give your website a professional feel. Now if your website features an overused photo, it looks like the work of an amateur - not exactly what you were going for.

However, with a little creativity, you can still use stock photos or stock video footage from a number of companies (e.g. Big Stock Photos or Shutterstock Stock Footage) to create a unique website. Just follow these dos and don’ts:


...use tired imagery. You may want your customers to feel welcome when they visit your site, but they’ll feel just the opposite if they see yet another image of a smiling call center lady. Other clichés to avoid: business people in suits shaking hands; a huddle of faces; money; a happy family; a clearly staged business meeting or team; and fingers typing.

Likewise, stay clear of stock photography memes, like “women laughing alone with salad,” “women struggling to drink water,” “people kissing computers alone,” “women proud of their two apples,” and “men laughing alone with fruit salad.” Not only are they overused, but they also became memes because they were completely ridiculous. Don’t open your site up to that kind unintentional hilarity.


...use niche photography. If your business fills a very specific niche or you only work with a narrow range of people, represent your company or appeal in a way that reflects your audience’s interests. Smiling call center lady isn’t just problematic because she’s overused, she’s problematic because very few people enjoy talking to telemarketers. By trying to appeal to a broad audience with a pretty, smiling face, companies appear bland and unoriginal, and it seems like they don’t fully understand their customers’ needs.

Represent your demographics on your site. If your business operates in many or just one country outside of the US, seek out images that represent that culture, whether they’re of major landmarks or simple street scenes.


...stick with only the literal imagery listed above. Sometimes, an abstract image or symbol that represents your company’s ethos, philosophy, voice or mission is just what your site needs.

For this approach, search for vectors and illustrations and piece together a theme, ideally one that complements your logo for brand unity. For instance, if you really do operate a call center, focus on its global reach with a creative rendering of a world map. Or, if you have a consulting business, opt for silhouettes of professionals or go for other new and fresh depictions.


...use stock footage to spice up site content. One of the best ways to increase user engagement on your site and drop bounce rates is to post a compelling, useful introduction or expertise video on your home page. Integrating stock footage into product pages can help you cut the cost of production without sacrificing that authentic feel.

There are many reasons stock photography has become such a phenomenon and there are even more reasons to keep it that way. You just have to be a little creative with your dos and don’ts to make it work on your site.

Rob Toledo works for Distilled Creative. Since graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in Political Science, Rob has been absolutely fascinated with how rapidly the news cycle changes in the world of the modern web, and is excited to be at the forefront of this environment with Distilled.