Stock photos: the benefits of paid and free stock photography

Good quality photography is essential for effective web design but you don't always need to hire a professional photographer.

Stock photography websites offer a great range of options for all kinds of business and can be entirely free. But use them appropriately and watch out for the pitfalls.

What is stock photography?

Stock photography are photos that have already been taken, edited and ready to use - often by professional photographers.

They tend to cover a lot of use case scenarios and I use them for many of my web projects, where the client doesn't have enough quality photography of their own and doesn't want to pay for a professional photographer.

Whatever your business, there it very likely to be some good stock photos out there for you that can be used on your website.

There are a number of great stock photo websites and locating the photos you need for your project is often as easy as searching their site and choosing the photo that best meets your requirements.

What are the benefits of stock photography?

Whether it's free or paid stock photography, one of the major benefits is that you're only a few clicks away from a good-quality, professional image that is able to represent your business, at a fraction of the cost of employing a professional photographer and at a much better standard than you can probably manage with your phone.

And with so many stock photography website out there, with a little determination and effort, you can often find just the shot you're looking for.

I've been creating websites for over 20 years and have used stock photography on many of my client's websites.

I understand the benefits of great looking photography and will always work hard to find just the right photos to match the brief of the website, staying on brand and communicating the values of the client's business.

It's not always easy but with many years of experience, it's something that I feel I've become quite good at.

Paid vs free stock photography

When I started out in web design last century (that's statement that should make any feel old), I'm pretty sure I remember iStock credits being one dollar. They weren't the same resolution (most of us were all on dial-up modems afterall) and there wasn't the range of photos but they were very cheap.

These days, the cost of buying stock photography can soon mount up.

Paid stock photography websites will always have a wider range of photos and you'll often find photos that match your requirements more exactly. When searching for a particular photo that I have in mind, I'll often see a shot that exactly matches what I want on the paid sites whereas I will sometimes have to make some sort of compromise when searching the free stock photo sites.

Best paid stock photography websites

Below are my favourite paid stock photos websites.

It's worth noting that Shutterstock offers 10 free photos with their free trial, so if they have exactly the photo you're looking for, that's definitely a good option if you want to keep costs low.

Where can I get FREE stock photography?

For the majority of my clients who do not have their own supply of quality photography, my default is to start on the free stock photography websites and they rarely disappoint.

There are lots of free stock photography websites these days and below are some of my favourites:

The best use of photography in web design

In the end, how and when photography is used on your web project will be determined by any number of factors including:

  • the aims and goals of your website
  • your business sector
  • your budget
  • your brand

The best way forward is usually a blended approach.

A mixture of bespoke photography, either professional or by yourself, mixed with free stock photos that match your requirements and paid stock photos for those images you can't source anywhere else.

Big banner images need to be great quality but people are more forgiving of gallery images of your work if, for example, you're a builder, plumber or electrician. However if you're a wedding flower designer, then the requirement will be much higher and visitors to your website would expect excellent photos of your work.

Don't be shy. Put your own team's photos on the website, so people know who they're talking with. Whilst professionally taken shots would be great, there's usually someone in a business who can take a decent photo, so set up a quiet corner somewhere, make sure the lighting is good and have a go.

Whether you're looking for a new website or a refresh of your current one pay attention to the photography and, if you want some help with your web design project, get in touch. My photo's below, so you know who you're talking with!

Key Actions

Check the photography on your website is good quality

Does it represent your businesses brand?

Visit the free stock photo websites and see what's available

Need some help? Give me a call on 07986 113 391.