The Secret to Using Stock Photos that look Professional on Your Website

Stock images typically get a bad rap. In the world of visual storytelling they can often be viewed as assets that taint your brand with a generic feeling.

But that doesn’t have to be the case if you understand what to look for. Be very intentional about how you want people to feel when they hit your site. Choosing photos that communicate that will improve the look and feel of your website dramatically. 

The cost of using carefully selected stock images can save you a lot of money when you’re just getting started. When you’re on a tight budget, they can be a lifesaver to pair with your written content. 

Here are five essential things that will make you look like a pro, when you’re selecting images:

1) Choose photos that match the story of your content

Stock images can be instrumental in bringing your written content to life. It’s always worth the extra time to find an image that evokes what your piece is focused on. 

Helpful questions to ask yourself when searching for the right images are:

  • What concept do I want to convey?
  • What emotion do I want the viewer to feel?
  • Do the circumstances or setting in this photo show this?

2) Put the human connection first

Create an emotional connection by choosing candid photos of people instead of posed and photoshopped ones. 

Photos of people are closely tied to human emotions. We connect more with others who are doing the things we want to see ourselves doing.  So if you’re clear about who your ideal customers are, then choose photos that they can relate to. 

Let’s define the difference between candid and posed photos. 

Candid photos are where the subject has no idea a photo’s being taken. As if the photographer is catching them in the act. They create a natural and authentic feeling.

Posed photos are when people have been directed towards a specific action and are often looking directly into the camera. There’s no movement but that doesn’t mean they’re emotionless. They simply look styled. 

If they have been heavily photoshopped to make the subject look “flawless” it will feel unrelatable. 

It’s always worth the extra time to search for photos of people that your customers can connect with. 

3) Have a few “go to” stock photo sites you trust

There are two main sources of stock image sites, free and premium. Many paid sites will often offer a monthly membership fee that can save some money. It’s wise to have a short list of both on hand to make searching easy in a pinch. 

Premium sites are often founded by entrepreneurs who are passionate about design. So they curate and screen images to create a marketplace of high quality stock photos and videos.

Big benefits can be more intuitive search functionality. And ways to check if the photos you’re interested in are being used on other e-commerce sites. 

There are also a lot of free stock photos sites that offer high quality and unique photos from talented photographers. Sites like Death to the Stock and Reshot offer handpicked, candid photos that can give a distinctive personality to your website photos.  

4) Understand when to give credit to the photographer

The plus of using premium and free stock sites is that they have clearly outlined copywriting policies. They make it easy by providing ready to use photography with full rights. 

But if you find images outside of stock sites it’s important to understand how to give credit or “attribution” for someone else’s creative work. 

If you find images on the internet that you want to use with your content, make sure to take these steps:

  •  Send an email to the photographer and ask for permission
  • Cite the creator with a link to their website or the page you found the photograph. 


Photography is a powerful way to build trust with your online presence.

Choosing unique and candid stock photos that connect with your customers will help your content stand out and draw your readers in. 

So remember these guidelines:

  • Choose photos that visually tell the story of your written content
  • Prioritize a human connection 
  • Keep a short list of free and paid stock sites you trust
  • When using a photos outside of stock sites give proper attribution to the photographer

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