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Design

Stock up on imagery. Do’s and don’ts of stock imagery use.

Last Updated on November 1, 2021

To tell your story well, incorporating imagery into your website content is a must. The right image can help your audience see that you understand their problem. As a result, they’ll believe you’re ready to deliver a worthy solution. The thing is, taking your own images takes time and resources. Sourcing high-quality stock images can be an invaluable solution to add a little something extra to your site without having to produce your own content all the time. 

Today, we’re talking about where to find great stock images and how to use them. What are your options? What are the best practices for choosing imagery? Let’s start at the beginning: where you’re getting these picture-perfect stock images. 

Where can I source great stock imagery? 

We have good news for you: You have a number of options when it comes to finding the right images for your digital marketing content. 

Your first option is stock imagery. Let’s briefly review the more popular license types. 

  1. Royalty-Free – These images are specific pieces of content that come with their own license. You can license an image, then use it as much as you want without having to pay more. In other words: Once you purchase the image, it is yours!
  2. Rights ManagedWhen you purchase one of these images, you first have to define where the image will be used, for how long, and by how many people. Since every image use is tracked, this allows for you to have an exclusive license for that image in your industry. This means that a competitor will not be able to license the same image.
  3. Royalty-Free Extended LicenseThis allows for an extended license of a standard royalty-free license so that an image can be used in promotional products (e.g. mugs, t-shirts, website templates). Based on the agreement, there can be a limit as to how many products are sold with the image on it.
  4. Creative Commons LicenseEssentially free to use, creative commons (or CC) licenses allow photographers to protect their work in simple-to-understand terms. Credit to the creator is often a requirement for using them, along with restricting them for personal use only.
  5. Public Domain – With no license agreement attached, this designation on an image means that its creator has placed their work into the ‘public domain’ for use by anyone however they want.

When should (and shouldn’t) I use stock images on my site?

Now that you’ve gotten a great image for your site, let’s talk strategies for timing your stock imagery strategically. 

Stock imagery can be great to use when you are:

  • Limited on time and budget 
  • In need of imagery that has global appeal
  • Need imagery you can digitally manipulate (e.g., with Photoshop or other image editing software)
  • Need specific, relevant imagery

This is good stock. Use stuff like this.

We discussed when stock imagery is appropriate. As it turns out, while these images can often help boost your site’s feel, there are certain situations where you should steer clear of stock images. This may be the case if your digital marketing efforts require:

  1. Specific scenarios that stock imagery can’t provide (Shooting specific clients, distinct scenes, featuring your products, locations, team members, etc.).
  2. You need images that have a longer shelf life and can be used for other marketing purposes. 
  3. Your brand requires a certain “style” that stock can not deliver.
  4. When abstract imagery just isn’t hitting the look and feel you need.
  5. When your current crop of stock imagery appears overly staged and outdated (Fake office environments, too much emotion, unnatural settings, cliches and stereotypes, poorly edited imagery, poor quality).

Really bad stock. Don’t do this!

Strategies for Mixing and Matching Your Images

Now that you have a good understanding of when and when not to use stock imagery, let’s pose the question: Can you mix stock imagery with custom? 

Absolutely! There will be times when a custom image just isn’t needed. When that’s true, you can certainly rely on stock images. 

On the other hand, in many situations, custom photography will always beat out stock. Obtaining custom content may require resources, but the ROI can be invaluable to your brand. 

If this seems like a HUGE undertaking for your organization, don’t worry about it! The experts at USDP understand your brand, the challenges you face, and the audience you are engaging with. We can give you advice that will fit your budget and give you a solution to fulfill your brand needs.

If you decide to get custom images taken, here are some quick tips to make sure the project is a success:

  1. Come up with a rough outline of what you need (a shot list). 
  2. Discuss your goals, budget, and timeline with at least two photographers. 
  3. Once you choose a photographer, find out what image rights you will have after the photoshoot.
  4. Make sure your final images have been properly edited (color corrected, size, format, etc.) before using them.

Want additional help in choosing the right imagery for your digital marketing purposes? We’d love to help you figure out the best solution for your needs. Contact us today and let’s talk.

John Rice Image Alt

By: John Rice

John is an Interactive Designer at USDP.
He makes a really good lasagna.