We live in an age of plenty, one where photos are available on stock photo sites for a fraction of the cost of a professional photographer. But this plethora can be overwhelming. Choosing the right stock photo can give your blog or website a modern, stylish feel; choosing the wrong one can mean looking like a hack. We’ve done the hard work for you, narrowing down to these top 7 tips for using stock photography the right way
1. Get to know your target audience
It’s a classic mistake. A blog or business wants to appeal to a mass audience, so they pick a photo of a bland model clearly posing in a studio. But who does this appeal to other than similarly bland models? As a blogger, you have the advantage of being in constant conversation with your “customers.” Use that knowledge to find photos that will appeal to their mentality.
2. Avoid clichés
The only thing worse than a bland photo is one that’s been used all over the web. Stay far away from any cliché photo genres, like business people meeting or shaking hands, people laughing while eating salad, a call center woman smiling, and families having way too much fun. Your best shot at finding original photos is to scroll as far past the first page of results on your stock photo site to the less popular photos in the back (Visit Shutterstock’s stock photography catalogue and see if you can find some examples yourself).
They’re usually just as high in quality and have managed to slip through the cracks.
3. Use people
People like people, and they like to see them on a website. Unless you run an escapist luxury blog, try to find photos of people that look real and relatable to your site’s audience. Even better, give the site a little more “oomph” with action shots.
4. Embrace abstraction
Browsing abstract photos, which are often both skillfully and artfully taken, can spark design ideas for your site. They can be used to communicate a site’s vision or central emotion, or to evoke the essence of your site’s central product or theme. For example, an eco-conscious blog might do great with a macro shot of grass blades, while sun glinting off water might be just the thing for a blog devoted to surfers.
5. Play with vectors
Once the domain of website buttons and menus, vector images are becoming increasingly popular on stock photo sites. Vectors are the ultimate in customization. They can be used to illustrate complicated ideas, engage young visitors and create a completely unique look.
6. Try stock footage
We humans are intensely visual, and we can’t help but get sucked in when we see an interesting action scene, whether that’s looped stock footage (click for examples) of an every day scene or an abstraction we can’t quite make sense of. Feature these videos on your homepage, across your site, or as part of a bigger presentation.
7. Create Curiosity
Use directional elements, such as a person looking a specific direction or a “flowing” image that draws your viewers eyes a specific direction towards something you want them to focus on. This directional flow is nearly psychologically irresistible and is a great way to get site visitors to read a piece of text that could otherwise be overlooked without subtly being directed towards it.
There you have it. With these 7 tips, you’re soon to be a stock photography pro!