Stock photos are very much part of the ‘furniture’ of web design and online content production, and are widely used to market a vast range of products and services. However, it can also be very easy to select unsuitable stock photos for a given page or section of your WordPress site.
Many examples exist of obviously clichéd stock images that do little to communicate a brand’s uniqueness, authenticity or quality, such as the contrived ‘business people shaking hands’ or ‘wide shot of a generic sunny beach’ motifs that some of your site visitors will have almost certainly already seen elsewhere.
Unfortunately for many site owners, today’s prospective customers and clients are very good at discerning when stock photos are inauthentic. However, it’s also not too difficult to avoid the worst stock photos and instead pick images that have an impact and communicate all of the right things about your content and brand.
Here are some tips that will help you to do that.
Be clear about each image’s purpose
There is a great difference between the photo that you may use as your large banner image – the one that is likely to be the first visual a visitor to your site sees, otherwise known as the ‘hero image’ – and the much less prominent images used in such places as your blog posts and social media pages.
Often, site owners fail to appreciate these very real differences, simply throwing stock photos into a certain context without giving much thought to their purpose. A case study, for instance, is likely to require rather more serious and specific imagery than what you would use for a hero image, which may be mainly intended to attract the attention and interest of the visitor quickly.
Also consider whether the stock image will appear in isolation, or with some overlaying text, when you are attempting to determine the most appropriate one for a given part of your site.
What makes for an inauthentic stock photo?
Familiarising yourself with the many synonyms for ‘inauthentic’ – including such terms as ‘fake’, ‘false’, ‘phony’ and ‘bogus’ – should help you to appreciate just what it is that might make a given stock photo inauthentic for a certain part of your WordPress site.
If your online business specialises in business management courses or business management software, for instance, is obviously generic imagery – such as depictions of a hand holding a pen hovering over a piece of paper with the words ‘business plan’, or two people in suits whose faces are bathed in shadow – necessarily going to serve your site best?
In this instance, if you think of the first images that are likely to crop up when you search for ‘business’-related images in Google Images, you can probably appreciate what kind of imagery will probably come across as inauthentic to your site visitors.
Place your stock photos in a realistic context
While stock photos are, by definition, staged, they should still communicate realism and relevance in the specific part of your site where you use them.
If, for example, you require an image for a holiday or travel-themed landing page, will the usual clichéd and anonymous image of a beach with palm trees suffice, or will it simply seem that you placed an image there for the sake of placing an image there?
Would it not be a better idea to pick out an image that shows an actual human being at an airport, on a plane or even at the destination to which the landing page is dedicated? A more specific and realistic image will help to communicate that your business is a real one addressing specific needs.
Despite the criticism that stock photos as a whole have earned down the years, in truth, stock images can be every bit as authentic, relevant and impactful as those that you may have specially created for you by a professional photographer. It’s simply a case of knowing how to search for and choose the most appropriate ones.