Guest Post by Rob Toledo:
Using stock photos for your business website? Better choose wisely. The right images can help you connect with your audience and demonstrate value. But the wrong ones can make you look silly or out of touch.
That’s why choosing stock photos should be a very careful exercise. Here are a few “dos” and “don’ts” that will help you select the best images:
Do consider options besides photos
Vector art. Illustrations. Even white space. Just because there’s space that you could conceivably fill with a photograph doesn’t mean you should use a stock photo for that space.
See what others in your industry are doing design-wise. Do they all use stock photos? If so, perhaps you could distinguish yourself by taking your design in a different direction. Moving beyond stock photos opens up a plethora of aesthetic possibilities. Why not explore them?
Don’t use too many images
When you do use stock photography, don’t go overboard. Except in unusual circumstances, only one stock image should appear on a page at any given time. Demonstrating value is the number one function of your website, not showing off the photos you chose. Using too many images risks obscuring what you really want to say.
Do use images that speak to your audience
How well do you know your audience? Your choice of stock photos will make it abundantly clear whether you do or not.
Because your images should reflect the people you’re trying to reach. What are their concerns? What emotions do they respond to? These considerations are important to consider when choosing your photos.
Don’t become a cliché
Consider financial planning and wealth management firms. Almost all of them use the same stock photos: The happy middle-aged couple, all smiles as they stroll comfortably down the beach or walk the dog through the park. Bored yet? Most people are.
While it’s important to use photos that convey the right message to your audience, try to do that without using the same tired photographs that everyone expects. It’s just another great way to distinguish yourself from others.
Do compare photos of similar subjects – closely
Let’s say you need a photo of several professionals strategizing in a meeting room. There are hundreds of images to choose from, and all of them look about the same. What should you do?
For starters, always choose the photos that look the most believable. Think about what each particular image suggests to your audience. Then compare similar photos and decide which ones look genuine.
And don’t forget about audience demographics – especially when using photos of people.
Don’t just use the images your client sends you
If you’re designing the site, it’s your job to tell clients whether their stock photos will be effective. And if you’re the client, it’s important to let your designer help you select the right photos.
Because while they’re well-intentioned, clients don’t always know which images are best. Designers should use their professional judgment and experience to suggest high-quality, empathetic, actionable photos that help clients achieve their objectives. That is what stock images were for all along, right?
Rob Toledo is a Firefox fan boy, no longer supports IE7 in his design, and thinks CSS3 is the coolest thing since sliced bread. He can be reached on Twitter @stentontoledo
images via ShutterStock