You need a photo or photos to use on your small business website or in your blog. How do you find images that will work for your needs?
- Take them yourself.
- Hire a professional photographer to take them.
- Find some free images online that are in the public domain.
- Buy a license to use an image from a stock photography website.
At Visual People, we almost always advocate using unique photos that show your own business, products and services. That way, you don’t run the risk of seeing a photo you’ve used show up in the marketing materials of other businesses – a common problem when you use free or stock images.
And we might be tooting our own horn a bit, but we love being able to help our clients with professional photography – they’re universally pleased about having high-quality images that represent their business. There’s no substitute for well-lit, well-composed images to attract and hold the attention of website visitors.
But we recognize that there are times when you might want to search for an image on a stock photography website.
Maybe you purposefully don’t want to show your specific business – an example is a day care provider who doesn’t want to picture her own clients for security reasons but wants photos of kids having fun. Or, you need a wide variety of images and it’s just not practical to take them all yourself – such as a travel agency’s destinations or the range of activities in which you can use a knife as an important tool.
So what do you need to know about choosing stock photos?
- Find a good website. We occasionally use iStockPhoto.com or PhotoShelter.com, but there are many others out there.
- Don’t necessarily choose the most popular photos. Often a stock image website will show you the most popular images first, but ideally, you’ll find an image that isn’t used by a lot of people. It’s uncomfortable to find the same stock photo you’ve used also featured on your competitor’s website.
- Photos that show people’s faces very clearly should have signed model releases on file. The stock photo website should indicate this – you may not get the models’ names or see the release, but it’s good practice to select images where a release exists. You are unlikely to run into any legal problems that way.
- Look for photos that appear natural. This is probably the biggest downside to the ‘low-cost’ stock photography websites, as many images that you’ll find show people posing. In most instances, a photo that might appear in a newspaper or magazine – with people being active – is preferable to a posed image where the people are staring at the camera and smiling.
- Download a size that is big enough to use for your needs. Don’t just take the smallest size because you’re using it on the web. Think about whether the photo would look better cropped, or if you might be able to use it in other marketing. A larger size might be your best bet – better than having to download (and pay for) the photo a second time because you didn’t download a large enough version the first time.
- Don’t use a stock photography image to brand your company. You need something that is specific to you and that can’t be used by many other businesses. One of our clients used a stock photo of a person in all their marketing materials – the photo they chose was on everything from their trade show signage to their sales sheets. One day at a trade show they learned that the man depicted in all their communications, who was in effect representing their company, was in jail on charges of child molestation. They decided to hire us to create new marketing materials for them – this time, using a company employee to represent the firm.
When you need an image to represent your small business, it’s best to create your own, unique images that are specific to you and what you do. But there are some instances and limited uses where buying a stock photo is quicker and easier than taking an image or hiring a professional. Pay attention to quality and best practices when choosing a stock image, and you should be in good shape.