April 8, 2024

The Dangers of Relying on Stock Photography in Your Website Design

While stock photography is a readily accessible resource and has its occasional use cases, utilizing it as a single source of imagery for your website can be a dangerous decision. Dangerous, in the sense, that it can jeopardize trust.

Too much stock photography on your website will leave it looking less professional, unoriginal, and not tailored for the user. We spend so much time online that it has made us all expert deciphers who can spot inauthentic content in a split second. When imagery with the same color palette, tone, and message aligns with the brand’s key messaging and design, magic happens—that magic is called trust.

A lot rests on the first impression a customer has when they first meet you in person or click on the link to visit your website. The convenience of stock photography is appealing; however, the decision to use it comes with its trade-offs.

How Stock Photos Can Hurt Your Brand & Business

What stock photography gains in convenience, it lacks in tailored originality.

Generally, you get what you pay for, and the same principle applies to photography. Real images that include key components such as your logo, colors, location, or people are important factors that make your business unique, honest, and trustworthy. If that’s what you can gain from photography, here’s what stock images hurt.

It Does Not Invite People to Trust in Your Brand, Mission, or Expertise.

Trust is the foundation on which business interactions, transactions, and relationships are built on. People need a reason to give you their time, believe in your mission, or buy your product. Inauthentic content erodes trust and does not allow space for impact. Leveraging great, high-quality, custom imagery supports your mission and displays your expertise on your website.

It Threatens Brand Consistency.

Brand consistency can be described as the harmony between all of its visual components and written content. When different fonts, artwork, or image styles are used on a single website, it evokes an inconsistent message.

I see businesses all the time choose to fill an entire website using only stock photography that does not use their brand colors, has various editing styles, or includes people that simply look fake.

Other visual components that stock photography may not have include correct tone, lighting, texture, and contrast. Stock photography websites give you search filters, but no matter how dialed in you can get with those, the results still lack the precision and tailored feel that should align with your business’s visual identity.

It’s a Risky Investment.

When budget, resources, or time need to be reduced, people tend to resort to stock photography as an option. But did you know that when you are looking to save on these items, you may be risking less results? It can cost you more to try to cut corners on imagery than if you were to invest in high-quality, authentic visuals. Speed and convenience do not usually equate to long- term, smart investments—having a plan and saving up for high-quality visuals will be worth the extra time and effort in the long run.

It Hurts Your Ability to Be Memorable.

It is important to have imagery that supports the product you are selling, the message you are telling, or the mission you are pushing. In the ever-competing space of viewer attention and time, it’s crucial to have meaningful and worthy content. People digest so much imagery that spotting subpar content comes naturally to most (certainly to Gen Z and eventually Gen Alpha).

While there are billions of images online, real images taken of your product or your people are going to build trust in your brand. Seeing a real person using your item or business builds rapport and creates an impression on others. If you want to be a business that makes an impact, don’t use imagery that lacks components that make it memorable.

People’s minds can only focus on so much information, so it’s crucial to simplify what they’re taking in to maintain their focus on your mission or message. Simplify details such as color, textures, or subject matter. While your imagery should be eye-catching, exciting, and dynamic, ensure there are no elements that distract from the overall message or inhibit the image’s ability to reflect back on your brand.

When Is It Okay to Use Stock Photography?

Stock photography does have its place. It can be a great resource for patterns, textures, or other elements that can make up a header background or overlaid with other visuals that are purely decorative.

It can also be a great resource for images in blogs or articles when visuals are needed to reference something that would be hard to capture yourself. A visual of a rare species of bird from the Amazon is a lot easier to find online than booking a flight to Brazil.

If all visual elements mentioned previously support your brand’s identity and mission, then stock photography can be used sparingly if used wisely.

Become Known & Trusted with Strong Branded Photography

Don’t fall for the quick decision to use stock photography. Your business will benefit from using high-quality, tailored imagery. If you are currently relying on stock photography for your website or brand, our team of professional photographers and videographers is happy to help you create the assets you need to support your business.

Alyson Carr

Having taken every art class she could since she was a kid, Alyson pairs her multifaceted creative experience with her unique perspective to craft compelling visuals that serve our clients best. As a Creative Media Associate, you’ll find her on location taking photos or behind a computer color-grading and making our clients look like rock stars.

Aside from her role at PHOS, you’ll find this Florida native outdoors soaking up some sun, playing golf with her husband, or walking her dog, Tucker.