How to Effectively Choose & Use Stock Photos on your Website

Lauren Mosteller

By Lauren Mosteller

Though stock photography is often thought of as cheesy, boring, and often damaging to a brand (and we would tend to agree), we understand that you don’t always have the time, resources, or money for a professional photoshoot. So what then? With the proper critical eye and discernment when it comes to choosing stock photography, you can find some exceptions to the rule. Here are 3 tips on how to carefully choose the best stock photography for your website:


1. Candid is Better

A photo used in your branding should be as relatable as possible to your target audience. Many stock photos are entirely staged with a person looking directly into the camera or with an exaggerated facial expression—often times with a blurred or white background. This looks obviously fake and is less believable than an image with people in casual conversation or in a candid moment. Ask yourself—”Is this photo believable?” If there is hesitation or the answer is “No”, then keep looking.


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2. Make it Intentional

If a candid photo does not fit the bill, ensure the subject is looking at what’s important (hint hint, the Call to Action (CTA)). A web visitor will convert quicker if you help them with subtle, psychological cues as to the messaging and button(s) you want them to pay attention to on your website. In general, a web visitor will notice in order: 1) motion 2) image/graphic 3) text. So, where is the image leading the viewer? Find a photo with the subject’s gaze directed towards your main message or CTA.


3. Spend a Little More For One Great Photo vs Several OK Photos

A large, impactful photo is better than several small photos. One of our favorite stock photography sites is Though you will pay roughly $300+ per photo on this website, the quality is great and the photos feel a little “less stocky” than other sites. We would highly recommend purchasing one great photo from this site for $300 and (for example) use it as the main photo in your hero area on your homepage with fewer photos on the rest of your website vs purchasing ten $30 photos from a cheaper stock photography site and having more of these photos on your website. Again, one great image that connects with your audience upon landing on your website is far more valuable than multiple bad photos for the same price.
Shovel Creative is a graphic design and web development agency dedicated to creating attractive and effective print and web materials, specifically focused on conversion and lead generation. To learn more about our process and how to work together, please contact us here.

About the Author

Lauren Mosteller

Lauren Mosteller

Lauren is the Project Manager at Shovel Creative. She has been managing teams and projects for 4+ years and has an innate ability to communicate effectively as well as multi-task. Lauren's optimistic personality combined with keen leadership skills allow her to enjoy the hustle and bustle of time management. Lauren graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2012, majoring in Communication and Sociology. In her free time, Lauren enjoys getting her sweat on at Orange Theory Fitness, weekend adventures with her husband and friends, and the scrumptious combination of wine and cheese.