As designers, we’re always keeping our eyes peeled for the latest, greatest visual technique or tool. Web users, after all, are a fickle bunch and will bounce in mere seconds if they don’t find a site compelling, meaning adaptability and fresh visuals are the name of the design game.
This would be next to impossible for most of us to achieve on our budgets if it weren’t for stock photography, which provides a far more affordable and reliable database of images than going directly through a photographer. But, as we all know, stock photography done the wrong way can make a design look completely passé.
So, what are the dos and don’ts? We break down our top 5 below.
DO use a mix of humans, objects and abstract settings
While featuring models on a website can make viewers feel welcomed and represented, abstract photos can do just as much to communicate a site’s voice or abstract intellectual concepts. Just make sure any abstract photos you choose are the kind of puzzle users will want to solve, rather than just being perplexing. Too many stock photographs include models seems very “fake” and unrealistic. Try to choose a photo that blends with the settings, the message and the idea behind your design.
Abstract photographs are used a lot for to express things you can’t see such as internet speed, energy, air, heat. Telecom companies, Internet service providers, Energy service companies tend to use abstract photos in their websites mostly. When you are choosing/designing website for these companies pick photos that viewers can easily recognize without too much thinking.
DON’T stick to boring or generic search terms
Sure, you may be designing for a business, but typing “business” into the stock photo search box isn’t going to get you far beyond generic photos of smiling, sanitized people in suits shaking hands. Adding a few relevant adjectives in there, like, “ice cream shop” or “yarn store” will not only find you images that are actually descriptive of the site for which you’re designing, but it will also help make the site more vibrant, colorful and distinct.
You might even want to try emotional terms, like, “happy child eating ice cream” to give viewers a sense of the type of experience they might have should they become that business’ customer.
DO invest in a good stock photo website
One of the best things about stock photography is that you can get professional-grade photography without having to pay a photographer. But in stock photography, as in much life, you get what you pay for. Keep in mind most people who shoot stock photos, they are taking the pictures for commercial reason. They might not be as passionate about the project or business that you are working on. However, since there are so many free and paid stock photograph websites you have a range of choice.
If you want a professional look, pay for professionals than downloading that free, pixelated image off of a free stock photo site. That said, do consider your plan carefully so there are no surprises when the bill comes.
DON’T use irrelevant imagery
You may love that photo of a puppy running through fields, but if you’re designing for an industrial plane parts manufacturer, you’ll confuse site visitors and look completely unprofessional.
Okay, so maybe that example is obvious, but how often have you visited a site that features a stunning photo that does nothing to communicate the theme, voice, or purpose of the website? And, more importantly, how often do you navigate away from that site without converting? Resist the urge to download every image you love and stick to photos with direct relevancy.
DO use stock photography as a base from which to get creative
Just because you’ve picked a single image, doesn’t mean you’re bound to use the image as is. Try passing a filter over it for a textured or vintage feel, or go with whatever look and color fits your design. Try featuring the photo from an unexpected angle, or crop the photo in an unexpected way.
With these top 5 dos and don’ts in mind, you’ll find good stock photographs for your design. Just remember to stay on your toes, keep up with trends, and play like all good designers do.