In the world of web design, it is no secret that images speak louder than words. Their visual appeal plays a pivotal role in attracting and retaining visitors. However, not all web design clients have the required photography skills to achieve their target outcomes, or there may be restrictions regarding budget and timeline. 

In this case, stock photos are a powerful ally that elevates your web design with high-quality visuals. 

But here’s the catch: Not all stock photos are created equal! Yes, you will have no trouble finding them as they are all over the internet. The trick is to select and use the stock photos that work for your website and target audience.

To help you unlock their full potential, we have outlined the best practices for using stock photos in this guide. With these tips, you can easily create stunning websites that leave an impact! Read on to learn more. 

1. Choose High-Quality and Relevant Pictures

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Stock photo websites are filled with attractive pictures. In fact, most people claim that they are spoiled for choices when browsing these databases. However, don’t be tempted to use an irrelevant picture for your web design just because of the aesthetic. Instead, focus on all aspects of the picture to ensure it fits your brand.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the picture resonate with your unique brand voice and the message you are trying to convey? 
  • Will your target audience be able to connect with the visuals? Do the photographs align with their specific demographic, geographical location, and interest?
  • Do they complement your web layout? Consider the color scheme of the selected picture and compare them with your brand’s existing visual identity so they don’t overwhelm each other. 
  • Is the picture high-resolution? Audiences are always wary of blurry and pixelated pictures, so choose pictures that boast good quality.

Carefully evaluating the picture will help you find relevant visuals and improve the user experience. 

Key Tip: Use the search filters on each stock photo website to narrow down your results. The search filters are based on several factors, including size, orientation, color, presence of human faces, and illustrations.

2. Check the Usage Rights

The last thing any marketer wants is for their web design to run into copyright infringement. Unfortunately, many notable websites have experienced similar situations for using content without the required permission. 

To avoid legal trouble, confirm the pictures you use are available for commercial projects. Each stock photo website you select for web design has varying guidelines. Familiarize yourself with the legal terminology to prevent conflicts.

For example, each stock photo has a license attached. The primary type includes:

  • Royalty free: With a royalty-free license, you can use the pictures with freedom in any way you want and as many times as required after paying a one-time fee.
  • Rights Managed: This type of license provides you with permission for one-time use of the picture. Details of the use are also specified, such as the duration of the usage, medium of use, and even geographical locations. 

Another factor to consider is the ‘attribution.’ Stock photos are legally owned by their creators, and every website has different requirements for crediting their work. 

Read the terms and conditions of each stock photo website carefully to ensure the stock picture you select and use complies with the legal rules. 

Key Tip: Never make the mistake of downloading a picture right from a Google Image Search. Most of these photographs are simply a result of your query from different websites. And using them without permission can be illegal. 

3. Make Edits to Stock Pictures

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While many people are unaware of this, it is perfectly okay to customize a stock photo. With permission, of course! 

Most stock photo websites allow users to modify their pictures, making them unique and aligned with their brand. Some edits you can try include:

  • Add overlays to your brand color scheme.
  • Add text to the pictures.
  • Crop and resize.
  • Integrate your own custom images within the stock pictures.
  • Add filters.
  • Change the background. 

Many agencies also offer online photo editors on their websites so you can directly make the edits. Just make sure to understand the guidelines carefully to avoid legal issues.

Key Tip: Most stock photo websites are pretty lenient with the modification permissions. But remember, You cannot alter stock photos to represent a bad disease, political ad, gambling, and defamation.

4. Don’t Forget SEO

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Yes, Image SEO is as important as textual optimization. Similar to how you practice the best strategies for keyword ranking, make sure to follow the same for stock pictures. 

Start by checking the file size of your pictures. Heavy image files and uncompressed pictures can drastically slow down the speed of a website. Studies also show approximately 40% of visitors will leave a page that doesn’t load within 3 seconds.

Visit the PageSpeed Insights tool to check the loading speed of your webpage. If the tool detects a slow load time, resize your pictures and compress them to reduce file size. 

Another element to check is the format of the picture. Generally, digital pictures are categorized as JPG, PNG, and GIF. The JPG supports many colors without weighing down the website. On the other hand, PNG is heavier but ideal for pictures with transparency. You can also use GIFs for raster and animated pictures.

To enhance the visibility of pictures on search engines, you can:

  • Change the file name from the default one set by stock photo agencies to relevant phrases. 
  • Add alt text to the pictures. These show up when an image fails to load for any reason. They also help visually impaired visitors using screen readers understand the context of your picture. 
  • Include captions (visible beneath the images) to enhance user engagement and experience. 
  • Add each visual file to the website’s sitemap. 

Most of the above SEO techniques require work on the back end of your files and can easily be neglected. However, implementing them can greatly impact your website’s preference in the eyes of both – Google and human users. 

Key Tip: If you use WordPress, several plugins and tools are available to streamline the image SEO process. This includes Yoast SEO, WP Smush, and ShortPixel. 

5. Avoid Cliche, Generic, and Overused Photos

Stock photo websites are updated regularly and always have something new for the users. But despite the numerous creative options, we often find websites with outdated or generic photos. 

  • Extra cheerful employees. 
  • A fictional hacker with a masked face.
  • Activities in an unnatural setting. 

And many more examples of pictures that simply scream ‘unrealistic’ are available online. Ignore these stereotypical pictures and select the ones that appear more genuine.

Here are some tips to help you make the selection:

  • Look for pictures that are equipped with modern elements. For example, a picture of a classic handset will not be suitable for your website about the latest gadgets. 
  • Look for the emotions in people. Is it over-posed? Are the pictures candid? 
  • Look for diversity in the pictures. After all, we live in a beautiful, inclusive world, and displaying images of different races, ethnicity, and gender enhances support for the people around us. 
  • Look for photos that accurately represent the work that you do, and the standard you uphold (cleanliness, safety, protective gear, technology, product results etc.) 

Making a careful selection will not only boost the design of your website but will ensure you get a fruitful return on your investment as well. 

Key Tip: Stock photos are accessible to everyone and often end up simultaneously on competing websites. Use tools like TinEYE for a reverse image search to find similar pictures online.

Tulsa Web Design & SEO - Symmetric

Tulsa Web Design & SEO - Symmetric


Now that you have all the details about selecting stock photos for your web design, it’s time to start the work. Follow the best practices for using stock photos to make the most out of these creative assets. 

When you partner with a web design and SEO agency, ask if you will have access to their stock photo library once you begin your project. Many agencies will already have a monthly subscription that you can use to select photos you like without incurring additional cost on your own. 

For assistance, feel free to contact our web design and development agency in Tulsa. Our expert team will implement proven design strategies to bring your digital vision to life.