Six simple tips for choosing better website images

If you’re struggling to choose stock photos for your website, you’re not the only one. It’s one of the most difficult things to get right – and one of the most common mistakes I see with clients. But it’s crucial because it directly reflects your brand story, and a bad image can destroy your authenticity in a single moment.

How to pick better stock photos

I’ve seen too many business owners make the terrible decisions when it comes website images. You know the ones, those cheesy, staged photos that make you cringe. And the worst part is it’s completely unavoidable. But the good news is, by keeping a few basic photography rules in mind, you can avoid picking cringeworthy photos and even boost your brand at the same time.

Here are my top tips

1. Use more candid photos

Stay away from staged looking photos. Especially shots with people looking directly at the camera or who seem to be aware of the camera. Also watch out for scenes with fake props where everything looks too clean and sterilized.

Instead, use candid photography with people in a natural pose in realistic environments, going about their daily business. Also make sure they’re wearing appropriate clothing, for example, avoid any with fake looking uniforms or work attire.

The more natural the people look in a photo, the better. A good candid photo should be is as if the camera wasn’t even there when the shot was taken.

Candid photo example
2. Use natural lighting

Lighting can make or break a photo. And poor studio lighting is common in bad stock photography. If it looks like it was shot in a studio setting with a white blown out background, then the artificial light could make the photo unrealistic.

By comparison, a photo with a good natural light from nearby windows or a sunrise or sunset in the background, can enhance the mood of a photo and create more authenticity.

As a rule, photos that use good natural lighting tend to be more realistic and engaging online.
Natural lighting example
‍Natural lighting can enhance the mood and tell more of a story.
3. Over the top gestures or expressions

Photos that show over the top expressions are another common photo killer. You might be tempted to choose them because you want to show a particular message or emotion. But it doesn’t work. Your audience won’t relate to them, and dumbing down your message will only make your brand clichéd and cringeworthy.

We’ve all experienced different feelings and emotions or been around others who are unhappy, excited or scared. We know what natural emotions look like.

You must respect your audience. Stick to choosing natural, subtle expressions and stay away from unrealistic over the top photos. 
Use natural expressions example
Avoid over the top expressions.
4. Use the right balance of ethnicities for your audience

It’s important to be aware of who is included in your photography choices. If your target audience is multicultural and includes people from all walks of life, images with only white males can unconsciously make it hard for your audience to engage with your brand message.

Diversify the ethnicity of all your subjects or focus on the background of your intended audience.
Multicultural stock photo
5. Don’t use dated illustrations

Keep your branding consistent. Do those cute little illustrations really represent your brand identity? Those 3D icons with a totally different colour pallet to your logo – do they really go? If you’re not sure something will work with your website, banner or advertising artwork, listen to that instinct.

Instead, check out other companies that inspire you. Do they use similar illustrations? If not then just keep it clean and simple, or consult a designer.
Modern illustration design
‍Try using more modern flat style illustrations that follow your brand guidelines.
6. Use high resolution images

(This is for the people who like to take images from Google - which you shouldn’t do for legal reasons). Whenever you source images make sure they’re high resolution and not small, blurry or pixelated. It does nothing for your branding other than make you look unprofessional, amateur and not creative. Another common rookie mistake. Your brand deserves better!

Just some of the many sites you can source and buy licensed stock photography:

  • Shutterstock
  • Adobestock
  • Pexels
  • iStock
  • Unsplash
  • Negativespace
  • Death to Stock
Pixelated image example
‍Avoid small low resolution images.

Still no luck?

Sometimes no matter how hard you look you just can’t find the right one. In this case don’t be afraid to get out the phone or camera and get a bit creative. A bad photo that’s real is more authentic to your brand than a fake polished one, and this will actually increase engagement with your customers.

Remember, your customers want to engage with real people and know your brand story.

I hope these six tips help you avoid the common mistakes when it comes to stock photographs. It may take a little more time, but you’d be amazed at what an engaging, high quality, natural photo will do for your brand. Rather than appearing cliché, dated and lacking imagination, you’ll come across as modern, cutting edge and relevant. That’s an instant brand boost.

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