How Stock Photos Can Damage Your Site

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On one hand stock photography makes it easy to supplement your written content with imagery while on the other it might be damaging your site. Find out how to pick out the right stock images in this post!
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Have you ever landed on a website that made you cringe inside?

Although you couldn’t pinpoint why the overall appearance of it may have registered as unprofessional and artificial in your head., visual content is a cornerstone for websites that aim to actuate user engagement – there’s no doubt about it.

Stock photos have become increasingly important for this very reason. That said, blindly using stock photos can quickly compromise the value your website delivers and increase its bounce rate. With this in mind, we’ll explore how stock images could potentially be damaging your website and share some tips on how to choose the right type of images.

Let’s get started!

Less Than a Thousand Words

A picture is worth a thousand words. Ideally.

Poorly picked out stock images are often so generic that they border on artificiality. The greater population skims through textual content and is drawn in by any imagery on your website. This is why it’s important for your site to convey the complete thousand words. If you’re using unrealistic images of models posing as professionals in pixel-perfect offices then your site’s credibility and authenticity are going to be compromised.

Stock photos are cheap and easy to find.

Getting the most out of your site’s visual content isn’t as easy as you may be inclined to think. Stock photos are cheap and easy to find which makes them effective – especially for webmasters who don’t have the means to hire photographers.

There are only so many images you can fit onto your web page without it appearing untidy or unprofessional. With that limited amount of screen real estate on your hands, it’s important that you select appropriate, engaging imagery that delivers incredible value, pokes at the viewer’s emotion, and connects with them at a personal level – or at the very least, says a thousand words.

What Not to Do

Stock photos could potentially already be damaging your website. If you’re doing any of the things listed below then it probably is. After all, the best way to understand how to do something right is to start off by understanding how not to do it right.

When you’re looking for images to enhance your textual content, do you…

1. Add Irrelevant Images

Images that are just there to fill up space and have nothing to do with the content itself aren’t going to create buzz. At times the line between irrelevant and just-plain-weird blurs and you end up with an image of a woman with a horse head mask ogling a pretty mare.

Irrelevant images can be strange.
Irrelevant images can be strange.

Images don’t work unless they give a visual portrayal of the message you’re trying to convey. Poorly designed ad campaigns are a great example of this. It is difficult to find images that tell stories and fit in with your message which makes it all the more common for webmasters to settle for images that just look good on their own – never mind how confusing it may be.

2. Pull Something From Google Images

Google Images finds and compiles relevant images for your search query in a matter of seconds. Using these images, however, can subject you to copyright infringement which may prove to be heavy on your wallet. The reason here is that most of those images have been purchased by small business owners or online entrepreneurs to be displayed on their own website. It’s downright dangerous.

Google Images
Pulling images from Google may lead to a lawsuit.

By using the same image without purchasing its license or asking for the photographer’s permission, you could end up with a lawsuit.

3. Use Generic Photos

If you’re selling products or services online then chances are you have a few competitors. Competitors who publish similar posts with similar ideas and similar images. Authors of different websites often visit the same stock photography resources to get visual content for their blog posts and pages. This is why you’ll often find the same stock photo on different websites within the same niche.

Home office.
A widely used image of a home office.

The thing to keep in mind here is that your viewership has probably already seen the stock photo you so carefully picked out on your competitor’s page. Finding a generic photo reused on your website is perhaps one of the worst things that could happen. It makes it seem as if you don’t give enough time to the content side which makes your readers wonder why they’re even there in the first place.

Generic photos should be avoided at all costs. If you’re still not sure what kind of images we’re talking about then here’s a hand-picked collection of some overused (read unforgivably cringe-worthy) photos:






What Not to Do

Now that we have a pretty fair idea of what not to do when looking for visual content, let’s go over some of the best practices to follow while browsing stock photography sites. Once you’ve got the text in place, you’ll need to…

1. Find High-Res Images

You might have noticed that websites sometimes use hero images on their homepage. Ever wonder why?


Big imagery has made its way into recent web design trends and proven to be incredibly successful for websites that implemented it. High-resolution images have a way of projecting a professionalism that resonates with the viewer and elevates the positive user experience they gain from your campaign.


Stock photography sites have different sized images on offer with their cost being directly proportional to their quality. At times, webmasters download the free version and scale it up to fit their web page. This not only makes the image appear to be blurry but it also takes away from your site’s visual appeal. High-resolution images may cost you a few bucks but, trust us, they’re definitely worth it!

2. Go for Images That Tell Stories

While most stock photography sites have a large collection of generic images and random photos of landscapes, objects, humans, and offices, a handful of them also feature images that tell stories.

Images that tell stories are powerful. They have an emotional impact on the viewer.


Finding stock images that match the message you want to convey is pretty difficult. Since they are tailored to the message you’re trying to convey or to your latest marketing campaign, best practices dictate that these photos be taken by photographers or created by designers.


The thing about these storytelling images is that the viewer will remember them. In the long run, they’ll be more valuable to you then their short-term costs which bring us to our next point…

3. Hire Professional Help

At the end of the day, the best – and safest – way to get a hold off strong visual content is to say no to stock photography altogether. Taking original photos and creating authentic images will always be more valuable then tacking on a few stock images. Let’s take a look at some of the most common use case scenarios where stock images are used and how you can get better shots yourself:

Workspace Images. Workspace images are probably the most unrealistic and generic images you’ll find on stock photography sites. We’re talking about photos of staff members attending the best meeting ever, call center representatives with their headsets and workers enjoying their lunch breaks.


These images can easily be replaced by smiling photos of real employees working at your office. Doing so humanizes your workforce and puts a face to the name. The photos might not be as pretty as those of plastic models posing for stock images but they’re authentic.

Inspirational Images. There was a time when inspirational images with motivational quotes were all the hype. The truth is that they still are. Although just about everyone on the Internet has seen the 20% of inspirational images that are used all over, creating your own inspirational images or recreating your favorite ones isn’t challenging.


Creating a positive association between your customers’ wishes and your business’ goals with tailored inspirations images drives conversions. It shows viewers how they too can be happy by using your product or signing up for the service you’re offering.

Wrapping It Up

Stock photography sites have made it easy for webmasters to add images to supplement their written content. When used the right way, they can trigger positive emotions and help you boost conversion rates. Hopefully, this post will serve as a guide in helping you select the best images for your website.

Do you have any tips you’d like to add on how to pick out appropriate stock images? Let us know by commenting below!

Rafay Saeed Ansari

Rafay is an entrepreneur, computer scientist, professional writer for several high-traffic websites, and founder of Blogginc. He provides byline and ghost-writing services for digital and brick-and-mortar businesses with a focus on web development, WordPress, and entrepreneurship.

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8 Responses

  1. Our company controls a platform of over 45,000,000 subscribers. The technology that we use gives us the unique ability to present to our subscribers a preferred, best choice when they are looking on any of the major search engines.

    We’re searching for a preferred and best choice to send our subscribers who are looking for stock photography professionals in various markets.

    I am in the office weekdays from 8:00AM to 5:00PM Pacific time.

  2. Our company has a network of almost 44,000,000 online subscribers. The technology that we use gives us the unique ability to present to our subscribers a preferred, best choice when they are looking on any of the major search engines.

    We are looking for a best, preferred choice to send our people who are looking for stock photography professionals in various markets.

    I am in the office weekdays from 8:00AM to 5:00PM Pacific time.

  3. Hello WP Mayor,

    I receive your newsletter twice every day.

    How can I manage to change it?

    One is send by

    and the other

    1. Hey Cyrille, which emails are you receiving twice a day? We’ve stopped the daily post emails as of yesterday, so if it’s those, they should stop coming in as of today.

  4. How about including some vector images or Icon symbols. Vector images are geography and culture neutral. They convey great messages if properly used. Vector images can be purchased as well. I have started using vector images for my blog. As you said they should communicate a story or brief action or an emotion. Please let me know what you feel. Nice article, thank you. Cheers, Ramkumar

  5. Good points well made 🙂

    I’m a big fan of Nathan Barry’s hand drawn graphics approach. Would also recommend looking for really high quality stock images – a bunch of sites listed here.

  6. Thank you for including my article about the risk of using images from Google. I have just developed a solution for all WordPress users to find, download and use cheap stock photos in within WordPress itself with – I also highly recommend to read our article “The Risks of using Free Creative Commons Photos in WordPress” here:

  7. Top post thanks some really good tips. Think we are all guilty of choosing generic stock photos at some time or another.

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