Should You Use Stock Photos For Your Website?

Should You Use Stock Photos For Your Website?

When Should You Use Stock Photos? | BlueprintA picture is worth 1,000 words – cliché I know. But the reason for the old saying is because it’s so true. With photography you can decide in a less than a second if you want to continue with a website or keep on moving along.

According to scientists at MIT, it takes us just 13 milliseconds for our eyes to see an image.

You can glance at a picture and get a small idea of what the website or blog post that you’re considering reading is about, which most people prefer. You’ll also get a fuller understanding of the text, and probably read more of it.

How Can I Get A Photo On My Site?

When you need a photograph for your website you should consider the following options:

  1. Take the photos yourself.
  2. Hire a professional photographer.
  3. Find free stock photos online.
  4. Buy a license to stock photography website.

What are stock photos?

Stock photos are pictures that photographers from all over the world take and sell online for business or personal use. The images are collected in databases that allow you to search for the exact style of photograph you’d like. They’re available with a large number of online vendors like Veer, Corbis and Shutterstock.

Why Should You Use Stock Photos?

Most companies who need online images use stock photos because

  • It’s easy and convenient
  • You don’t have to plan a photo-shoot, hire a photographer or edit photos.
  • While it may take you some time to find the perfect picture, it’s a lot easier than taking the photos yourself.

How To Select Unique Stock Photos

When looking for a picture on a stock website, make sure to find the unique ones. Don’t just look at the most popular shots; try digging through the pages. We have all seen the tired stock photos of businessmen in a conference room, people holding a globe up to the sky, or someone eating a salad while laughing (which someone made a hilarious tumblr about.)

Depending on the license, you can usually modify a photo. That means cropping or changing the color. This can help if you’re using a popular photograph but still want to make it seem unique.

Just keep in mind: try and find natural, unstaged pictures. It will make your website stand out and keep your visitors interested.

When Should You Not Use Stock Photos?

When Should You Not Use Stock Photos? | Blueprint

When you’re a business website, believe it or not, there are many times you should try to avoid a stock photo. Do not use the usual, boring stock photos that nearly every other business website has – especially in your own category.

If you can afford it, take your own pictures, or select from stock carefully. This will make your website uncommon, personal and memorable. This also helps if you are trying to brand your company and differentiate it from others.

Using a stock photo that is on 300 other websites will not give it that feel.

Know Their Rights

If you are unsure of the proper use for stock photos you can check out this iStockPhoto article here.

The article explains that while you may have purchased a photo, you still have a set of rules that you must follow.

For example, you cannot use a picture as a part of your business name, redistribute the photo or use it to depict a model in a sensitive way.

Where can I find stock photos?

No matter what kind of stock photo you are looking for, there is a way to find it. You may be able to find it for free, or you may have to pay for it. There is a plethora of websites to find them on. Check out some of my favorite free and paid ones here:

Top Free Websites:

  • – premium feature available
  • – premium feature available

Top Paid Websites:


If you happen to use these websites, make sure that you find the appropriate license associated with them and always credit the author! Using stock photos is not a bad thing, just make sure to be particular and stand out from other businesses.

By: Caroline Ripa
  • Jeremy Campbell

    This post reminds me of a recent “controversy” with the Republican party running an ad campaign using a stock photo that had apparently made its rounds around the internet (You can read about it here at the risk of the website offending your own political opinions:

    I think the issue is ultimately that businesses (or political parties) need to make the decision that investing in unique, custom photographs is worth the money. Your article makes a great case that the cost of using unique photographs is not as high as the cost of having a website that looks just like a dozen other websites.

  • Blair Sanders

    Very good post. I like the contrast of when you should and shouldn’t use stock images, especially the concept that other businesses may be using the same picture.

    I remember about 5 years ago, Georgia Gwinnett College unveiled a complete redesign of their website. Once you entered the site, you were greeted by a smiling female student that looked like she attended the school. This photo worked well until GGC students found the same girl on the Devry University website as well.

    These students sparked enough conversation about the image to the point where GGC eventually replaced the stock photo with a picture of a fairly well-known student to ensure that the photo wasn’t a fake.

    On another note, thank you for the tips of how to get pictures legally. It’s easy to think that we can just perform a simple Google search to get the photos we want, but there are many stipulations that we need to consider before we just snatch photos. Sometimes, if possible, just taking your own photos may be a simpler.

  • Great post. With the high prices for stock photos I would recommend taking your own. Find a stock photo that you like and recreate it. This a cheaper method and you will have a unique piece of content that will only be on your website. If you are not sure if a stock photo has been used alot, drop the photo into Google Images and most of the sites that use that specific stock photo will be displayed.

  • John

    I liked the bit about finding a unique photo. You’re right… the upside to stock photos are the production value, the downside is the difficulty with personalization. Good tips for workarounds to that difficulty!

  • Great insight on using stock. Another thing to be careful of is that sometimes stock photo sites will accuse you of stealing photos that you legitimately purchased on other sites. I had a client get a lawsuit threat from Getty Images for photos he purchased from Dreamstime. So know your sources and your rights. That’s why I stick with the newer free photo sites. I created one of my own that I hope others will find helpful – – a new photo published daily, free to use anywhere for anything.

  • Chuniq Inpower

    When a business services company uses a stock photo its always a red flag for me. Branding is very important for these types of businesses and the extra effort in creating your own image or visual is important to securing your brand message. Finding the right photo is critical.

    I have used istock and shutterstock plenty of times and have no complaints!

  • Samantha Torres

    I couldn’t agree more about the importance of using photos and images not only to help convey your overall message, but also making sure they’re unique. Having your own photos and graphics is a great way to establish your brand as a thought leader, rather than a follower.

  • Adam Baxter

    I recently watched the movie, “The Giver” (I don’t recommend it) and it was about an emotionless society that was never happy nor sad. Long story short, in the end they all have visions of what emotions are, and the filmmakers just made the visions a bunch of stock footage clips and photos. It was utterly ineffective at eliciting any feelings from its audience, and felt really out of place.

    Taking the time to take your own photos is always a much better idea.

    • It’s interesting when people use stock images as a cheap alternative to taking their own pictures. Did “The Giver” seriously not have the budget to take some original clips and photos in place of stock?

      • Adam Baxter

        They must not have. Though, its a classic example of thinking your audience, (or visitors to your website) will be engaged by your content simply because it says “be engaged.” In other words, stock media tends to be insincere, and people can recognize that.

  • Rebekah Faucette

    While I agree that using a stock photo can make a company seem more generic or less reputable, there are small businesses that can’t afford to hire a professional designer or photographer. These businesses are the ideal audience for stock photos, allowing them to seem more professional and giving them the ability to push their client base, which eventually will allow them to dedicate funds to a marketing budget. These photos, in my mind, should be seen as placeholders until the company is “on its feet,” especially since the alternative could be uploading a grainy photo from their smart phone.