Why stock photos matter and where to find them (sometimes for free).

As much as I’d love to be able to say that any website I design is all based on my talent, I can’t. Sure, fonts, colors, and the placement of text and images count for a lot. But truly, the images that are chosen for a web site can make or break a design.

I could create something amazingly gorgeous that can be taken from “pro” to “amateur” by the inclusion of bad images.

What do I mean by bad images? Images that are:

  • Grainy
  • Pixelated
  • Blurry
  • Busy
  • Poorly lit
  • Not in line with the brand/design

If bad images can make such a huge difference in your site, imagine what good ones can do!

But don’t worry, good images aren’t that elisuve. There are so many talented photographers and artists out there. You just need to know where to look. If you want great images for your website you have two options: hire a photographer or get some stock images. There are pros and cons to both.



A photographer can capture exactly the images you want. Whether it’s photos of your unique products, your building, your staff, or your gorgeous face! A talented photographer will be able to take photos that fit a particular design or aesthetic you have in mind.

However, they can be pricey. Worth every penny, mind you, but if you’re just starting out, you may be on a tight budget and looking for other options.

If you’re local to Southeastern Michigan, I highly recommend A Strong Image for photography.

Stock Photos

Fortunately, for those of us without deep pockets, there are many photographers who take generic images and sell them in bulk. You can find these types of images on www.istock.com or www.shutterstock.com and other stock photo websites. For the most part, these images are high res, quality images that can represent a number of different businesses and scenarios that you might want to portray on your website.

Stock photos can cost anywhere from $1 to $300 depending on where you go and what you’re looking for. So while they are cheaper than hiring a photographer, they’re still something you may need to open your wallet for. Additionally, stock photos aren’t necessarily sold exclusively. You may find an image you really love only to find that image being used on countless other websites and social media posts.

There are free resources for stock photos. The pro to this option is, of course, that they’re free. The biggest con is that not only do you have to dig through mountains of images (some which aren’t really the quality you’d want on your website), but you may have to get creative when deciding what will represent you (see below). 

You can find royalty free images on www.unsplash.com, www.pixabay.com, www.pexels.com, and others. If using royalty free images be sure to check the fine print to make sure the images don’t require a credit to the photographer. And even if they don’t, sometimes it’s nice to put a shout out to the artist who was kind enough to release their work for the world to use for free.

Creativity with Images

Whether or not you’re using free images you may not find the image. So you may have to get creative. For instance, if you’re a personal chef and you aren’t finding any images of food that you like, try searching for images of kitchens. If you’re a hamster trainer and can’t find any images of hamsters in training, that’s ok! See if you can find an image of a hamster wheel or a hand holding a hamster.

For example, I recently created a home page for a tax preparer. This client was fun and friendly and I wanted to portray her in a way that reflected her personality. I definitely couldn’t do that with an image of a white desk, succulents, and a calculator, so I had to get creative and chose an image that didn’t necessarily scream “taxes” but had a wonderful splash of fun color while still portraying a serious business aspect.

Don’t be afraid to alter the image a little, as long as you have the rights to. Crop it, resize it (definitely resize it!), use Canva to add your own text to it.

The bottom line here is that images are important. They can make or break a design. So make sure you take a peek at what’s out there because the photo Aunt Bertha took of you at Thanksgiving, probably isn’t the best image to use on your About page.