The photography your business uses on its website is one of the most important elements of its website design. Consider these stats from graphic design tool Canva that show its importance:

  • Adding photos to information increases recall to 65%, compared to words-only recall of 10%
  • It only takes 150 milliseconds to process an image and only 100 milliseconds to attach meaning to it – it takes twice as long to process words
  • Remembering photos is easier than remembering words, and people can remember up to 2,000 pictures and recognize them days later

Website photos create emotional connections. They explain written ideas. They help people remember your brand messaging.

There are plenty of free photo sites out there, like Unsplash and Pexels. Plus, access to stock photography sites can allow you to search for the exact image you want, without having to coordinate and pay for a photo shoot.

But when is using stock photography a bad idea? Here are three times when you should absolutely invest in custom photography.

Custom Versus Stock Photos: Which Should You Use on Your Website?1. Use Custom Photos to Show Off Your Staff

There’s absolutely no replacement for your own living and breathing staff. Service-based industries, like law firms, agencies and counseling services, are ones where prospective customers might want to see who they may be hiring. As well, group photos of smiling employees or headshots of executive teams can inspire trust in a company.

Invest in high-quality photos of your staff, including professional headshots, especially of top team members. You can use these not just on your website, but in other marketing materials.

2. Use Custom Photos to Present Your Products or Service

People who see photos representing your product or service on your website expect to be able to get that exact same experience when they purchase. Taking professional photos for what you’re selling is essential.

For experience-based businesses, such as art class studios, having visual representation of the service can inspire conversions. For ecommerce businesses or shops that want to show off their products online, accurate photo representation makes your business more trustworthy and enhances credibility.

3. Use Custom Photos to Give an Office Tour

Just like showing off your staff can create a connection between website visitors and your business, so can including photos of your office. An office environment can convey company culture. If you have a creative office space, displaying it on your website can impress visitors.

Stock photography of offices and office workers is notoriously some of the cheesiest around. It can also be incredibly boring. If you take meetings at your office or welcome visitors, never use stock photography of your office building.

Custom Versus Stock Photos: Which Should You Use on Your Website?When Using Stock Photography Is OK

Any time you’re able to, using high-quality custom photos is preferred over stock photography. Problems with using stock photography include:

  • You could be using the same photography as your competitors
  • Your users may recognize that you’re using stock photography and associate your business with being cheap or inauthentic
  • You may accidentally use stock photography illegally, by not giving proper credit to a photo or adhering to its terms of use

However, startups and small businesses may not have large budgets to invest in all-custom photography. Here are some times when it’s considered more appropriate to use stock photography.

  • Blog posts: If you’re churning out multiple blogs posts a week, it might be impossible to set up photo shoots for each one. Stock photography can add a multimedia touch to your written words.
  • Page backgrounds: When a photo is being used to add ambiance to a web page but isn’t the main focus, a nice landscape or action-filled image may be appropriate.
  • Basic graphics: Stock photos are perfectly usable when you’re displaying iconography. You can save your graphics team time by opting for a stock photo.
  • Locations: Want to add some news about your new location in France, but don’t have anyone on the ground there yet? Location stock photography can inspire awe when the shot is beautiful.
  • Crowdsourced images: Crowdsourced images don’t fall in the custom photo category. When you can get user permission to use their photography for pages like a testimonials page or page showing off your social media channels, you add a personal and genuine touch.

Spice up your stock photography usage by getting granular in your keyword searches. The more specific your search, and the deeper you dive into the results, the more likely you can choose the most uniquely available stock photography for your objective.

What are your thoughts on custom photography versus stock photography for website design? Sound off on our Facebook page.