Should You Use Stock Photos on Your Website?

To stock photo or not to stock photo? That is the content question.

There are pros and cons to using stock photos, but the general consensus is, if you can use an original image, do that instead. But why? We talk about the best and worst parts of using stock photos in this post.

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They’re Convenient

It doesn’t take much work to select a stock image. You simply need to find an image on one of the countless stock photos websites and, maybe, take some time to crop it or touch it up.

Stock photos are amazing in a time crunch. They are fast and easy to select; you don’t have to take much time out of your team’s day to get a stock photo.

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But They’re Expensive

While stock photos aren’t exactly expensive, buying a new one for every post you create isn’t entirely practical. The cost adds up, especially if you need to buy photos for multiple pieces of content every week. Buy stock photos sparingly and make sure they fit your specific purpose or you will simply be throwing your money away.

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They’re Generic

This is a double-edged sword. Once you buy a stock photo, you can use it and use it again. You have a file of all the stock photos you’ve bought. And since the photos are so general, you will likely have no problem applying the images to another entirely different piece of content.

But that also means that the graphics won’t always be a perfect fit for your content. There is a lot of settling when it comes to stock photos. You start looking with a certain idea in mind and usually end up with something that came close enough.

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And Unconvincing

When you see a stock photo, well it’s pretty obvious it’s a stock photo. Pretty people, brightly lit backgrounds. These things are unconvincing. Your audience will look at a visual and either connect with it or not.

Chances are, if it’s a stock photo, the answer is not. It’s hard to connect with stock photos, because they are clearly stock photos. Too general to elicit an emotional response, which is the basis of connection.

When the audience sees a stock photo, they are more likely to say “yeah right!” as opposed to being drawn into your content. Maybe if you chose the perfect stock photo, this can be avoided, but it is rare.

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They Compliment Other Types of Graphics

Say you’re creating a white paper, complete with beautiful, original illustration. But you need to fill up some space with something different. That’s where stock photos come in. They break up other graphics with pictures of people instead of all illustrations. The diversity is needed sometimes.

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But They Often Feel Like a Cop Out

Whenever I see a stock photo just randomly stuck on top of a piece of content, I always image the creator of the content saying, “That’s good enough, I guess.”

Stock photos won’t wow an audience. They’ll merely sate the need for a visual. Too often stock photos just take up space.

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They Don’t Show Complicated Concepts Well

Stock photos can’t show complex concepts, especially those in areas like B2B marketing. A topic like email subject lines does not translate well into stock photos. These sorts of concepts lend themselves well to illustrations, as the visuals will be more nuanced than pretty people laughing at a business meeting.


You don’t want to use bad stock photos in a world that is increasingly visual. It will hurt your credibility, make your content less effective and cost a large amount of money. There are times when stock photos have their uses, like when you need pictures of people to break up graphics or when your boss demands a blog post on short notice.

Stock photos have a lot of variety. A small company can’t afford to produce aerial shots of a city or close-up of wildlife. But they can afford to buy a stock photo of those things.

They’re great in a pinch or if you want real photos on a budget, but are by no means a permanent solution. Original visual content is the best content, as it will engage your audience better than a stock photo ever will.



Do you use stock photos? When is it okay to use them? Do you prefer original photos or illustrations over stock photos? Let us know in the comments section.



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