Are Stock Images Ever Useful?
In general, I advise clients not to use stock images when they can avoid it. As a designer and as a web surfer, I would much rather see images of your actual customers and employees than people who are obviously models or posing for a stock image. And people who surf the web a lot can tell the difference. So is there ever a time when stock images are appropriate for a website?
First, if you have enough pictures already taken to use on your website, there's no need to use stock images. Do make sure that the pictures are of high enough quality to give a good impressions, though. If the pictures are grainy or of otherwise poor quality, you might be better off not using them.
Second, even if you had pictures that are unusable, there's still the option to get new pictures taken. Hiring a professional photographer, even if only for an hour or two, can result in many high-quality pictures to choose from for your site. At the very least, get someone you know who takes good amateur pictures to take the pictures. Even an amateur with experience is better than having pictures that are not of your company.
It may be that you work out of your home in an environment that it would not be appropriate or professional to display on your website. You could also work on-site for other companies, possibly with security concerns. A good example of both of those would be someone who runs an IT consulting company out of their home. In such a case, it would be completely appropriate to use stock images.
It could be that your website is for something more general, where stock images are easier to obtain than getting custom photography. Say, for example, that your website is an informative site with information about whales. It would be a lot less trouble and less expense to use stock photos of whales than it would be to obtain them yourself.
As in many things, there is no clear-cut rule for determining when to use stock images. However, if the cost is less and the level of professionalism of your website would not be negatively affected, stock images can be a viable solution. I would encourage you, however, if it is at all possible, to use pictures of your actual product, location and/or customers.
Tim is the owner and senior web designer at . His company has developed and maintained website for dozens of small businesses and organizations. Tim also maintains a blog with free website advice for small business owners, .
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