Just take a long, broad look at the web and you’ll notice it’s a bit chaotic. To be noticed, and remembered, you have to have strong visual content. These visuals help viewers quickly absorb large amounts of information while also leaving a longer-lasting impression and helping to increase views and clicks. Just consider how much more social media outlets are enabling visual content to help you promote your content.
However, finding images that appropriately enhance and reinforce your content can be a challenge, especially if budget and time don’t allow you to have original photos taken. Stock photos can be a good second option and the stock image sites have improved in the quality of images they offer. However, if you’re going to use them, keep these five things in mind:
1) A competitor also has access to the same images. That competitor could potentially use some of same images you’re using. While the likelihood is probably remote, it may be best to consider limiting direct use of the stock images you buy to ‘lower-profile’ pages. But if you have the capability to modify or customize those images in some fashion (e.g., adding a headline over them), you should generally be okay.
2) Usage rights may be limited. When searching for stock images, make sure you check the usage rights attached to them. Some images are limited to editorial use, some limited to usage for education and some may have other specific license or attribution requirements associated with them. The two types of licenses are:
- Royalty-free images. This usually means you receive unlimited usage rights. You can use the image for virtually any application — Web-based or otherwise — as many times and for as long as you desire as long as you follow the terms of the license agreement provided when you purchase the image.
- Rights-managed images. Your right to use this type of image is restricted (e.g., duration of use, geographic region, industry), as established by the license agreement that comes with this type of image. Generally, these types of images are more expensive.
3) The search process takes time… and maybe a Thesaurus. Remember, it’s stock photography, so your vision may not match what is available. If you are looking for a very specific image of a specific type of person doing a certain thing, be prepared to look for a while. Also, be prepared to enter a variety of alternative search terms (this is where your thesaurus comes in). Entering alternative terms (ranging from literal terms to figurative to emotional), will help you widen your search and may open up other ideas and can help you forge a backup plan if you don’t locate an image that matches your original idea.
4) You have to apply the ‘cheese’ filter. We’ve all seen these images, the fake smiles with thumbs-up poses, the oddly staged settings, and the magnifying glass over someone’s suddenly large eye. If you find your inner voice saying “hmmm that’s a bit cheesy,” it’s probably best to pass by that image…unless your page is about cheesy stock imagery.
5) Flexibility may become a necessity. After searching and not finding what you need, it may be best (think time and energy) to take another look at your content and adjust the text or focus a bit to better align with the stock images you think may potentially work. You may also want to consider paying for something custom. Images are important to your content and stock photos are often the route you may need to go. Just keep in mind that finding the right one can take some time and effort. Be patient and try to enjoy the search. To get you started, here are a few sites to consider searching: