Top DO’s and DON’Ts of Stock Photography in Web Design
If there’s one truth in web design, it’s that you can’t build a good site without engaging imagery. Images help break up the page and are a lot more compelling than dense blocks of text. But to find a good photo, you’ll have to go beyond a simple Google image search, where the few photos that aren’t of low quality tend to be copyrighted. Stock photo sites are a much better way to go, giving you access to thousands of high quality photos in a range of genres at cut rate prices compared to hiring a professional photographer.
But before you start clicking away on any old image, get to know a few of the top dos and don’ts.
DO know your target audience.
Who are you creating this site for? If you said, “My client,” think again. Any good website knows the customers it wants to attract inside and out, including what those customers would like to see in a site. Go for stock photos that are relevant both to the product and to these needs. If you’re designing a site for a cupcake
company, find the most luscious, colorful photos of cupcakes out there. If you’re designing a site for a hospital, find photos of sunny hospital rooms and welcoming staff. Start with the customer and work backwards from there.
DO use people.
No matter what the product, people love seeing themselves represented on the site. People photos give a site a welcoming feel, even more so when the shots look impromptu rather than staged in a studio. Usability experts will tell you, pictures of people will draw attention, and the way a hand is pointing or where eyes are looking can be a powerful way to draw attention to what otherwise might be boring text.
DON’T embrace the call center girl.
The stock photo world is rich and diverse, and yet the image of a smiling call center girl is plastered on business sites all over the web. Do yourself a favor: scroll past the first page of search results to the second or third and find a photo no one else is using. Your site will lose credibility if you accidentally pick a photo that’s been mocked in a meme, and you won’t be winning any fans if it’s easy to see you’re copying everyone else’s look.
Some other cliches to avoid: business people shaking hands; men
and women laughing into bowls of salad; women drinking water poorly; people
hugging their computers.
DO get creative with it.
Once you’ve purchased a photo, it’s all yours. Play with Photoshop, and don’t be afraid to browse through a site’s database of vectors. These are anything from comic characters to images of objects to abstract art, all of which can be used to illustrate a point, create a story, or enhance a site’s overall look.
DON’T be afraid of stock footage.
Videos are just as compelling as photos, and stock photo sites have plenty of stock footage to offer. From completely abstract shots to looped video of everyday occurrences, videos are quick to attract the eye, keep it there and engage the customer.
DO go abstract (within reason).
Staying relevant to a site doesn’t have to mean sticking with literal imagery. Just look at abstract company logos. Choose an abstract image that reminds site visitors of the company’s overall mission or voice. For example, good abstract shots for a solar energy could be anything from a macro shot of a solar cell to sunlight streaming through a tree. Just keep the photo on message.
The most powerful designs are ones that visually encourage behavior. Utilizing creativity and digging deeper into stock photography options will yield the best results for designing your site and creating a memorable user experience that should both decrease bounce rate as well as increase conversions.