How to Choose the Right Stock Photo

Austin Walker Austin Walker
February 15, 2018   |   3 min read time

Stock photos: a necessary evil AND a fundamental marketing tool on your website. No doubt you’ve seen the cheesy end of the spectrum: people with wide, toothy smiles looking directly at the camera while…sitting in a dentist chair? Or what about those business stock photos where the model is holding random pie charts while others in the “meeting” are exclaiming in disbelief or giving thumbs up.

The reality is that stock photos are mostly going to fall into that bucket, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Visuals are an incredibly persuasive marketing tool and will only continue to be that way with the rise of Instagram and Snapchat. Most internet users will tune the cheesy graphics out, but those well-versed in marketing will see those photos as laziness and underachievement.

So how DOES one choose the best stock photo? You don’t have to change your source, even Shutterstock is capable of dishing up some pretty interesting imagery. But, you will have to expand your mind a little and think about what you are REALLY trying to communicate. It doesn’t always have to be literal to convey an emotion.

Choosing the best stock photos for your company translates to brand trust. If your images look fake or pixelated, that only degrades the relationship between your customer and yourself. The future is visual and as a business, you want to use every opportunity to remind your customer that you are a trusted brand who is here to help.

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Basic Tips:

  • Reflect your content: Find options that communicate the message or evoke the emotion you’re looking for. Don’t focus on the aesthetic too much, some of the most successful stock images can look like everyday photography.
  • Consistency in Design: look for photos that have similar lighting and feel. Don’t use high-contrast, high-color images in part of your website and then unexpectedly transition to black-and-white, moody films. Make sure your images do a good job of telling the story for you.
  • Up-to-date, high-quality: a no-brainer but make sure that you’re selecting images that are high-quality for great viewing on the highest resolution screen. Also, make sure that the images are current and relevant (unless your brand calls for something vintage).
  • Real images: When looking for people in images, look for “candid” imagery that shows someone in-action versus someone who is posing while looking deeply into the camera. Candid images speak truth more than posed ones.
  • Purpose: Rather than cropping a body awkwardly or showing part of a hand holding a phone, show a person interacting with an organic space to show your visitors how someone might look during the process (ideally, that look is happy and stress-free)

Free Resources

In need of some new imagery? Here are some free resources.

Pikwizard is a great new stock photography website. It features over 100,000 images, with 20,000 exclusive to the website. There is no attribution required and the website prides itself on its images of people, which are few and far between on great stock photography websites.

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Beautiful, free photos. Gifted by the world’s most generous community of photographers.




Premium Stock Resources

Adobe Stock



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