Using Stock Photos in Web Content – the Dos and Don’ts

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By Boris Dzhingarov

Stock images are a lifesaver for many website owners and content creators. Stock images are available for free, albeit under a variety of different terms. When they are used correctly, stock images can greatly enhance your content. However, it is important to avoid some common mistakes.

Do Check The Licensing

Before you place any image on your website, it is essential that you understand exactly what terms it is available under. While you can take a stock image and use it for free on your website, whether you are able to edit the image or use it in any work that you are receiving direct payment for are both dependent upon the specific terms of the license that the image is made available under.

There are plenty of stock images available for commercial use, and you are free to use these in any work, irrespective of whether you expect to make money from the work or not. If you place adverts on your website to convert traffic into money, then any articles you post could be considered commercial works. If you want to play it safe, you should always look for stock images that come with a commercial license.

Don’t Just Grab The First Image You See

When you are browsing a stock image repository, chances are you are searching for something that lots of people have searched for before you. Most of these people will have selected an image from the first results that appear. If you also choose one of these images, you are going to end up with content that looks just like everyone else’s.

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Instead of picking the first suitable image that you come across, it is worth taking the time to see exactly what’s available. Not only will this prevent your content from looking like your competitors, but you will also have the chance to see all the hidden gems that are usually overlooked because they are buried a couple of pages into the search results.

Do Look For Something Unique And Original

The most obvious image isn’t always the best one. In fact, it often pays to take the time to dig a bit deeper and find something a bit more unique and original. Having the same stock images as other websites in your content can make it seem less original, even if the actual text is entirely unique.

If you take the time to find something less cliché and more original, your content as a whole will benefit. Not only will your content be more original in comparison to your competitors, but it will also encourage you to be more creative in how you illustrate your content.

Don’t Use Abstract Images Or Figures

Unless there is a specific reason for you to use artificially-generated abstract imagery, it is best to avoid this type of stock photo. There are a number of reasons for this, but one of the main reasons is simply that this type of image tends to be ineffective. If you want to create an abstract texture or image, then this is usually simple to do yourself, even if you have no knowledge of digital art or image manipulation.

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Many abstract images are also heavily overused in the world of stock imagery, meaning that they are likely to hinder the originality of your work.

Do Choose Images That Reinforce Your Brand

When you are deciding on images to use with your web content, you should always consider how the images you choose reflect upon your brand as a whole. You don’t want to pepper your content with any images that are going to create a poor impression of your brand or alienate your audience.

It is also best to avoid any stock images that are going to clash with the visual design of the webpage you intend to place them on. A stock image might look great when you are writing your article in your CMS, but when you see that same image in the context of the page that it is set to appear on, it can look completely different. You never want to harm the overall look and feel of your website.

Don’t Misrepresent Other People’s Work As Your Own

This is very important when you are relying on stock imagery. There are some stock images that you are allowed to use on an unlimited basis, meaning that you aren’t even obligated to credit the original artist if you don’t want to. However, most types of licenses for stock photos will obligate you to credit the original artist or photographer in some way. Make sure that you check this beforehand.

Whether you are required to give credit or not, you should still avoid passing anyone else’s work off as your own. You don’t have to specifically say that the work is of another artist unless the license requires you to, but you shouldn’t tell anyone the work is your own or imply that it is in any way.

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Do Edit Images Where Necessary

Provided the stock image license permits modification, there’s no reason not to edit stock images if you think it will mean they fit in better with the rest of your website. Sometimes, even some basic image retouching can make a big difference in the way that an image looks on your website. If you think that performing some minor modifications is going to improve the impact that an image has on your content, then don’t be afraid to do so.

Using stock images can be a great way of improving the quality of your content and making it look more professional without having to splash out on a professional photographer or graphic designer. There are a plethora of stock image repositories for you to choose from today, it is important that you check the exact licensing terms that any images are available under, regardless of the website you download them from. As long as you use them correctly, stock images can be a real benefit to your web content.