Stock images are really popular when it comes to content marketing. Using stock images alleviates the problem companies have when it comes to consistently generating original visuals to accompany blog posts and company information. There are many different sources for stock images on the web; some of these places allow marketers to download stock images for free, while others ask for a fee. There is a general consensus that images are a necessary part of good content – but should you be using stock images in place of professional illustrations and photography?

When You Shouldn’t Use Stock Images

There are times when you should avoid stock images in your content marketing. One is when you are talking about your company and your team members. In these instances, you’re going to get a better response using actual professional photos of your team members than you would using stock photos. Customers like to know who they will be doing business with – and this is even more so in the age of relationship marketing.

If you have a physical location, you’ll want to use professional images of that as well. Nothing can be more off-putting as a customer than going into a location that looks nothing like it did on the web.

Finally, you’ll want to ensure that any photos of product are actual photos and not stock photos. Would you feel a bit lied to if you went to a restaurant that had photos on their website of foods they don’t even serve?

Hiring a Photographer

If you’re not feeling capable of producing professional-quality photos yourself, then hiring a photographer is necessary. Be sure that the photographer has business photography experience and product photography experience. You might need to use a different photographer for products than you do for your employee portraits.

If cost is an issue (and it often is when we’re talking about using stock images in lieu of professional photography on a website), consider hiring a talented startup photographer or a photography student looking to build his or her portfolio. You can check with your local civic arts programs for recommendations. You may also consider trading or bartering of services. Whatever you do, be sure to check out the individual’s portfolio to ensure that his or her style is in line with your company’s vibe.

When You Can (and Should) Use Stock Photos

Stock photos have their place. If you need something to accompany a blog piece, a well-selected stock image can really pack a punch. Many businesses do not have professional photographers as resources, and including an image with content is a good practice for readability. When it’s time to use stock photos, here are some tips.

Steer Clear of Overused Photos

You may be able to conjure up a few images in your head that you’ve seen everywhere – on a coaching website, on a freelancing website, on a tech website. Don’t use that image again! One way to steer clear of photos that are being used by everyone is to use paid stock photo sites. Since many people use free sites, the images on such sites become quickly overused.

Make Stock Images Your Own

Crop the photo, change it to black and white or sepia, etc. Rather than using the stock image as it is, consider using photo editing software to prep it for your own content. This can help your images to stand out more and look less like stock photos.

Make Sure the Stock Photos You Use Match Your Content

Nothing is more awkward than stumbling on content with an image that feels awkward. When you’re using stock photos, be sure that they accompany your content and your brand. Otherwise, such photos can really detract from what you’re trying to say and do.

Be Sure to Caption and Add Alt-Text to Stock Photos

Some businesses make a mistake when using stock photos by overlooking importance of ensuring that alt-text and captions are used effectively. When you use stock photos, don’t just slap them up on the website page. Use alt-text and captions to help those searching for your content to find it and make it easy for those scanning your article to pick up the main points.

Less Is More

It may be tempting to use all the stock photos, but avoid this temptation as much as is possible. Make sure that you’re also getting creative using tools like Instagram to photograph your own images, and use images in your content as seasoning – not the main dish. In fact, every photo you use in your content and social media marketing efforts needs to have a purpose. If you’re using images just because you have them on hand, you may need to rethink your strategy.

Be Sure You Have the Rights to the Photo

Make sure that with any photo you use that you have the rights to use it. There have been lawsuits over images that were used without the proper rights. Be sure you also follow any rules for that photo when it comes to proper attribution.

The Verdict on Using Stock Photos

Stock photos can be a useful tool for companies – if they’re used correctly. Avoid using stock photos when it comes to talking about your business, staff members, and products. Don’t use stock photos just because they are there – be sure that your photos are appropriate for the content you’re creating.

Ronda Bowen – Content Creator

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