Better Ways to Use Stock Photo Libraries: 3 Quick Fixes to Avoid Boring Images

Stock photo libraries seem to have become the chicken pox of the WordPress world. No one actually likes using them, and in many cases, they leave blemishes on an otherwise kick-ass site design.

Being stuck using stock photo libraries for your website or events calendar doesn’t have to ruin your design or come across as hokey. We’ve got three quick fixes to help out with some of the most common problems.

Problem: No Budget

Sometimes a client forgets to budget for photography. Or they just don’t value original images enough to spend money on them. That’s a major bummer, since visuals are processed 60,000X faster than text by the brain. When a lame stock photo is the first thing your customer sees when they visit your site, you’ve already made a bad first impression.

Quick Fix: Use a better stock photo library. If you’ve got zero dinero to spend on images for a WordPress site, try checking out free stock photo libraries like Death to the Stock Photopicjumbo, and Unsplash. All three of these offer $0, non-cheesy, high-quality images that can be used for personal or commercial websites.

Creative Commons photos are another option for free images. Flickr and Wylio are two sites that allow you to search for photos licensed under Creative Commons. Just be sure to double-check each photo’s license for any attribution requirements, remixing allowances, or commercial use restrictions.

Another budget-friendly alternative to stock photo libraries is crowd-sourcing images from your community. Designating a hashtag for events or specific marketing campaigns makes it easy to find user-generated photos shared on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These types of images work particularly well in events calendars since they help give potential attendees a feel for what to expect when they attend.

Problem: Lack of Time

Your client is crunched for time and doesn’t want to delay their site launch. So instead of hiring a photographer to take images of their products, they decide stock photos are the best route to go.

Quick Fix: Carve out smaller time windows for image sourcing & editing. While the client may not have time to schedule a full-blown photo shoot with a professional, there may be room to add in a little extra time to source and edit their stock photos more thoughtfully. Crops, color adjustments, blurs, and fades can all help you get more from a stock photo so that it fits with the overall site design.

Problem: Diluted Branding

After investing in a well-designed website, why would you want to muddle down your brand with generic stock photos? Off-topic and over-used images dilute the messaging while cheesy cliches turn off your visitors before they get a chance to learn anything about your company or your products. With hundreds (or sometimes thousands) of websites using the same old stock photos, consumers have begun to develop a visceral, negative reaction when they spot images that feel disingenuous to the site they’re visiting.

Quick Fix: Avoid cliches like the plague. (see what we did there?) Only use imagery relevant to your brand’s tone and style. A few cliches to avoid:

  • Anything with clipart
  • The floating arm handshake
  • Call center employee wearing a headset
  • Happy team gathered around a laptop or conference table
  • Any other image you feel like you’ve seen on at least 10 other sites before

Cliche images scream “fake” — and fake is not a quality you want your customers to associate with your business. When possible, avoid using stock photos as featured images or hero shots. Instead, use them as supplemental imagery to enhance your existing branding.

Also watch out for images marked “hot” or “popular” on stock photo sites. These indicators are based on sales and popularity, which means a lot of people have recently purchased or downloaded the image. The more popular a stock photo, the more likely it’s already being used all over the Internet. It pays to dig a little deeper into your image search results. This way you can find images that aren’t as trendy or widely-used.

Stock Photos Don’t Have to Suck

Using images from stock photo libraries doesn’t have to be a death sentence for your website. The web is becoming more visual, and sometimes stock photos are better than no photos. Just make sure you use them in a way that doesn’t suck – choose the right source that fits your budget, make time for editing, and be consistent with your branding.

One thoughtfully sourced stock photo will beat out loads of crappy cliche images any day.