Our clients often ask us about graphics and photos for their website. Should they use stock imagery? Hire a professional photographer? The answer depends on a few different factors. Let’s take a quick look at three of the most important questions to ask yourself when selecting photography for your website project.

1. How quickly do you need the images?

The turnaround for getting stock images can be very quick, depending on how much time you spend searching and deciding on the images you want. There are many stock imagery websites out there, and it doesn’t take long to set up a free account, search for images in their database using keywords, purchase the image, and then immediately download the image to your computer.

Hiring a local, professional photographer takes a little more time for planning and execution. Depending on the photographer’s schedule, you can most likely get a photo shoot scheduled within 1-2 weeks and have access to the final images within a week after that.

2. How important is it to be unique from your competition and accurately reflect your specific people, locations, events, equipment, etc.?

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Stereotypical stock images can make it difficult for you to communicate unique value propositions because your website ends up looking like everyone else’s.

It can be a real challenge for companies, both for-profit and non-profit, to find stock images that feature the specific qualities that make them so unique. We’ve all seen the stereotypical stock image of the business team with big smiles and freshly whitened teeth just a few too many times.

Let’s quickly summarize the two types of stock imagery:
Rights-Managed & Royalty-Free.

With Rights-Managed images, the photographer is paid a royalty and there are limits set for the dates and number of times the image can be used. This does increase the uniqueness of your image in the market, but does require a much higher budget.

With Royalty-Free images, you can always spend extra time searching for those that don’t have a “stock image” look, or spend extra money on more stylized images from special collections, but remember that anyone who purchases a Royalty-Free image is free to use the image unlimited times for many different purposes. This means your website is probably not the only one out there with that same image (does that friendly-looking lady with the headset really work at all of those different companies?).

Another important factor to consider before purchasing stock images is the size / proportion of the image and where the image will be used. You may have found the perfect stock image for your website: it’s a standard horizontal shot of a family playing together on the beach. But what if the image is going to be used on your website’s horizontal banner, which is extremely wide and not very tall? After cropping the family image to fit in the wide banner, the only visible part would be the kids heads, while all that’s seen of the mom and dad are arms and shoulders – not exactly the look you were going for. 

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When you hire a professional photographer, you’re paying for their technical expertise and creativity, which means you can work with them to customize the specific content, colors, layout, etc. A good photographer will be able to capture the mood and passion behind your company, and work with you to creatively highlight your products or services. When you discuss your needs with your photographer, be sure to talk about where your images will be used, and any specific sizing and placement that would work best.

3. What is your budget?

A good photographer knows how to collaborate with you so your company's personality is seen through your photos.

A good photographer knows how to collaborate with you so your company’s personality is seen through your photos.

Your budget often dictates which options are open to you. Royalty-Free stock images are attractive to small businesses that are on a limited budget and are willing to accept the downside that their images are not unique and may be used by others. Many businesses will use stock photography until hiring a professional photographer is in their budget.

Every business that desires to use custom photography should, at the very least, check out the galleries of a few local photographers and get some estimates. Many small businesses are surprised when they find out how affordable a small custom photo package with a 1-hr photo session and 10-20 photos can be. Many times it is in the same ballpark as a similar quantity of unique stock photos. Professional photographers can also provide business portraits, store photos, and product photography.

Summary
Whether you choose stock photos or professional photos, be sure you use images that target your specific audience and complement your content. High quality photography can play a big role in your marketing campaigns and draw positive attention to your business. At Spot Color, we can help you choose the best stock images, or we can set up a custom photo shoot with you and your team.

We’d love to sit down with you and offer you a free consultation to discuss your website and your business goals – contact us today and let’s talk!