Used effectively, stock photography can dramatically enhance the visual appeal of your website and drive clicks and conversions. However, for stock photography to do its job, it needs to be selected carefully and used judiciously. Too often, website owners think that stock photography is a substitute for good design and content – which it isn’t.
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First of all, stock photography needs to be high quality – otherwise you may as well just whip out your smartphone and take a photograph yourself. Look for images that have been taken with a modern, high-resolution camera, and make sure that they are well composed and balanced. Also, check that the imagery is not outdated – unless you really want a 1970s theme, there is absolutely no point of having an image with old cars or people with flared jeans in the background. The same applies to illustrations – some rendered graphics just scream that they are from the past. If you’re not sure about any of this, ask a good web designer for help – it is their job to keep up with current design trends and know what looks good.
It is also important that your images look natural, rather than overly posed or clichéd. There’s nothing guaranteed to turn visitors off more than a picture of two people shaking hands against a white background, or of someone with an idiotic smile giving a big thumbs up. These just look false, and will make people question the integrity of your website – which is the last thing you want when you are trying to sell something or build a following. If you take a little bit of time, you can find lots of natural looking Dreamstime stock photos, so there’s no reason to use anything else.
Stock images should support your website content, not dominate it. Putting too many images on a page is a major mistake – this will just confuse people. Remember, there is nothing wrong with some whitespace in your design – in fact, this can give your pages a feeling of spaciousness – so there is no reason to plaster images over every inch. Also, the images need to be relevant and clear – it’s perfectly fine to use metaphors, but if you do, make sure that the metaphor is obvious.
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Finally, you may want to modify stock images before you use them. When you do this, make sure that you don’t do anything that makes the image look bad. For example there is nothing worse than cropping off the side of someone’s head or even their feet – take a look at this guide from Digital Camera World for guidelines on where you can crop and where you can’t. Also, if you want to extend an image by cloning pieces of it, make sure that you don’t end up with repeating patterns that will look completely unnatural. The other major mistake that you can make at this stage is to insert your product into the photograph, particularly if the end result doesn’t look natural. If people don’t trust the image, they won’t trust you either.