Stock photography: bad or good?

Dur­ing the B2B web­site redesign process, we get this ques­tion quite a bit from clients. There is still a stig­ma around using stock pho­tog­ra­phy. The rea­son behind this is valid: stock pho­tog­ra­phy used to be real­ly, real­ly bad. No one wants to look at a guy in an ill-fit­ting suit count­ing mon­ey in an office dec­o­rat­ed like it’s the 1990s. (You know you’ve seen the pic­ture and it makes you cringe.) The good news is that stock pho­tog­ra­phy has evolved sig­nif­i­cant­ly.

Stock Photography Now

Just like any oth­er mar­ket, stock pho­tog­ra­phy had to evolve to meet the chang­ing needs of its cus­tomer base. As such, pho­tog­ra­phers spent less time stag­ing real­ly fake images and start­ed set­ting up shots that looked more nat­ur­al and organ­ic. Pic­tures still con­vey quite a bit of mean­ing, so it’s impor­tant to uti­lize pho­tos and images that con­vey a mes­sage that is con­sis­tent with your brand. Of course, cus­tom pho­tog­ra­phy is always the num­ber one choice for B2B web­sites and mar­ket­ing, but if this option is too pricey, stock pho­tog­ra­phy is a good resource.

When to Use Stock Photos on Your B2B Website

Let’s take a look at when to con­sid­er stock pho­tos on your web­site:

  • No Images Avail­able: Your com­pa­ny doesn’t have access to pro­fes­sion­al in-action images tak­en while your employ­ees are pro­vid­ing a ser­vice. This isn’t uncom­mon, espe­cial­ly for ser­vice-based orga­ni­za­tions like account­ing, recruit­ing, finance, or con­sult­ing. It’s rare that any­one will have tak­en high-res­o­lu­tion images of peo­ple work­ing in your office.
  • Action Images: Like­wise, your com­pa­ny may not require images of a unique prod­uct or ser­vice car­ried out by employ­ees. It can be dif­fi­cult to con­vey the job duties of a con­sul­tant or finance part­ner in a pho­to. Often­times, iconog­ra­phy or oth­er graph­ic ele­ments can tell your brand sto­ry more effec­tive­ly than pho­tog­ra­phy.
  • Con­vey or Elic­it Emo­tion: Stock pho­tos can be used to cap­ture a feel­ing you would like a user to get when they vis­it your web­site, which is best achieved with abstract or artis­tic imagery. Do you want vis­i­tors to feel pas­sion, relief, safe­ty? Imagery can be used to con­vey or elic­it these types of feel­ings.
  • Tell a Sto­ry: Pho­tos can be instru­men­tal in telling the sto­ry of your com­pa­ny, which may be dif­fi­cult for a pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­ph­er to cap­ture with the resources avail­able (i.e., employ­ees are not paid mod­els, so may not pro­duce the “feel” you’re try­ing to cap­ture to help explain the ben­e­fits your busi­ness pro­vides).
  • Fit with Web­site Design: Stock pho­tog­ra­phy can pro­vide unique visu­als that sup­port the struc­ture and lay­out of your company’s web­site design. For exam­ple, wide images with emp­ty spaces for copy over­lay can cre­ate a unique and com­pelling visu­al effect. These images help to sup­port the look and feel of the web­site to make it flu­id and func­tion­al.
  • Qual­i­ty Images: It can be tough to find clear, high-qual­i­ty images that aren’t tak­en by a pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­ph­er. For this rea­son, stock pho­tos help to ensure the B2B web­site design­er has access to images of prop­er scale, high enough res­o­lu­tion and large enough size to avoid blur­ri­ness on the web­site. Blur­ry images make your com­pa­ny look unpro­fes­sion­al and slop­py, so nev­er use blur­ry imagery.
  • Sup­ple­ments: If your com­pa­ny already has high-qual­i­ty images to work with, you may con­sid­er sup­ple­ment­ing with stock pho­tos to help pro­vide a larg­er pic­ture and/or a stronger mes­sage to the user.

Stock Photos: A Great Resource

Even as I write this, stock images are get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter. Pho­tog­ra­phers are learn­ing more and more what B2B firms are look­ing for and are refin­ing their images, com­po­si­tions, and sub­jects to meet those needs. Stock pho­tos can be pow­er­ful tools to use in a B2B web­site design, so don’t dis­count or avoid them based on their pre­vi­ous stig­ma.