Stock photography on websites and when to use them

stock photo example Images are very necessary on any website but they must convey the right message and be of good quality.

You need to have up-to-date photos though, especially if you have people in them as fashions and hairstyles even lighting styles change. 

I came across this beauty the other day, if you’re old enough to remember the film Air Plane that’s what it reminds me of:

A badly chosen image can look cheesy and send the wrong message. You wouldn’t use a photo like this one on a modern medical website, not only do the people look dated the decor and I expect the medical device behind is out of date too, and something about that calendar on the wall looks hideously 1970s. Also, the doctor, is sitting on the table, when was the last time you went to see a doctor and they were doing that? I can’t imagine any situation where this image is suitable apart from this article. 

Free images 

You can end up spending a fortune on stock images and they are often better quality, but there are a few free stock image suppliers that are quite good. They usually have links to a paid stock photo supplier to entice you to buy them on their sites, this is a way to advertise paid stock photography. 

Here’s a list of free stock photo sites:


Be careful when you used these, make sure to add a reference to the photographer if it’s requested. 

A potential disadvantage with free images is you may not be the only one using that image. Paying for one or more does lower the chances of that happening. 


It’s hard to use paid stock images illegally with the watermark on them even if you can remove it, you will get caught. The preview images are usually very low resolution too, so they will look blurry anyway. 

There are ways companies scan the internet for their images on websites and will make you pay before taking legal action. Ever tried reverse image search in Google? Same thing. 


If you end up using all white people in your photos, not does it make you look bad, but you could end up putting off potential customers who will notice, and those customers won’t all be people of colour, disabled people, transgender or any other group often discriminated against, many of those will also be white people (like me) thinking ‘oh that’s a shame, I wonder what their values really are?’. 

So make sure you have a range of people from different backgrounds in the images you choose or have taken, that way you show you cate and care for all.

Depends on your industry 

Will a stock photo be appropriate? It’s really difficult when your line of work means the people you look after need their identities protected, that can be therapists and solicitors to have photos, so this is probably a good situation for stock photos. You can still have photos taken but have the side of the face or back of the head visible so long as people aren’t recognisable. You might not need stock photography if you’re selling nuts and bolts for example, but then if you have a photo of the team (your staff) and some images of happy people (as long as they’re not too cheesy) then it can give the impression of dealing with nice human beings, rather than a faceless company. 

Images of people can really help a website look more friendly and relatable. 

Take your own?

Your own taken photos are owned by you, they’re your intellectual property. If you do a reverse image search on Google you can check no one is using them.

Phones are ok to take photos, it’s not like the old days when phone cameras were awful. As long as you have enough light and good composition that should be enough, but get a second opinion and if you can, do a course or get some guidance on photography. If your photos look awful on your website, it could let your organisation down in lost sales as people are put off. So make sure you can take decent photos! 

Get a photographer 

We highly recommend Nicky West of, she does fabulous photos, puts you at ease if you’re having your headshot done, and also provides a range of stock photos for you to use, which will be original and you can guarantee won't be used by anyone else. It’s a good investment when you consider people act so much on instinct based on an image, how someone feels about a product or person is often based on the impression they get from a photo. 

Photos do matter

So, make sure if you use stock photos they are good quality, relevant and diverse and you have permission to use them.

For a bit more depth about images on websites, see our blog post: How to optimise images for your website