Do’s and Don’ts of Using Stock Photos in Website Content

Ivanna Attié

September 18, 2023

In an age where visual content dominates, stock photos have become essential tools for crafting web content. The images we include are attractive and aid in conveying information clearly. In fact, a text supported by visuals enhances the user’s retention by 65%. Visuals also make navigation seamless for website visitors, creating a positive experience during their visit.

But here’s the catch: Not all stock photos are created equal. There’s an art to picking the right ones. It’s about more than just aesthetics. Instead, you should consider aligning the pictures with your brand and target audience.

Here, we will talk about the “Do’s and Don’ts of Using Stock Photos in Website Content.” These tips will help you make the right decision! Just follow these, and your website content will be optimized in no time!

The Do’s of Using Stock Photos

Do: Understand Your Brand and Audience

To make the most of stock photos, it’s important to really know your brand and who you’re trying to reach. Start by learning about the people you want to connect with, their likes, what matters to them, and how they think.

Then, select premium-quality pictures that match your brand’s personality and values. This helps create a consistent look and feel that people can recognize immediately. This special connection can make a big difference in your brand’s performance.

Do: Work On SEO

Paying attention to image SEO is a valuable step to take when incorporating stock photos into your content marketing strategy. Image SEO involves optimizing your visuals to make them more visible and discoverable in search engine results.

To achieve this, start by selecting descriptive file names that accurately represent the content of the image, using relevant keywords. Additionally, provide concise and informative alt text for each image, allowing search engines to understand the image’s context.

Incorporating relevant keywords in captions and ensuring a mobile-friendly, responsive design can further boost your image SEO efforts. When these aspects are aligned, your stock photos contribute to improved visibility and engagement.

Do: Embrace Diversity and Inclusivity

While using stock photos in your content, including people from different backgrounds and experiences is important. Pick images that show different cultures and ways of life.

This makes everyone feel like they belong and matter. In our virtual world, the goal is to create an atmosphere where everyone can see themselves in the pictures. By doing this, you’re showing that you care and respect the different types of people in the world.

This not only makes your content look better, but it also sends a positive message about being fair to everyone.

Do: Customize for Consistency

Remember to customize your pictures to match your brand. Imagine you’re a travel company with a vibrant blue and yellow color scheme. You find a great stock photo of a tropical beach, but the colors need to resonate with your brand.

What you can do is add a touch of your brand’s blue and yellow to the image – maybe in the form of a border or overlay. This way, even though it’s a stock photo, it now feels like it belongs to your brand.

The Don’ts of Using Stock Photos

Don’t: Overuse Stock Photos

Overusing stock photos can make your content feel generic and less genuine. Imagine you’re running a blog about healthy recipes. If you rely solely on stock photos of food, your website might look like many others out there.

But if you balance those stock photos with your own custom pictures of the delicious dishes you’ve actually cooked and captured, your content gains a personal touch. People are more likely to trust and engage with your recipes when they see real, homemade meals rather than just polished stock images.

To truly stand out, showcase authenticity. Let’s say you run an online fashion store. Using only stock photos of models can create a disconnect between your products and your customers. Instead, consider including user-generated content.

Do ask your customers to share photos of themselves wearing your clothes and use those images on your website. This not only gives potential buyers a better idea of how your products look in real life but also shows that your brand has real fans.

Don’t: Use Clichés and Stereotypes

Steering clear of clichés and stereotypes is essential when using stock photos. Instead of relying on overused images, opt for originality and resonance.

For instance, think about a tech startup website. Instead of the typical stock photo of people in front of computers, imagine a photo that showcases a diverse group brainstorming around a whiteboard filled with colorful sketches. This breaks away from the ordinary and conveys collaboration and innovation, instantly engaging your audience on a deeper level.

Tools, such as Google Images, help you find out If an image has been used elsewhere or not!

Don’t: Mislead with Images

Ensure the images you choose match what you’re offering or talking about. For instance, if you’re promoting a cozy cabin rental, don’t use a stock photo of a luxurious hotel room – it might confuse people.

Being accurate in your image choices builds trust with your audience. If people feel misled by your images, it can harm your brand’s reputation and credibility. It’s always better to show what you truly provide rather than create false expectations.

Don’t: Rush

Remember to exercise patience and avoid hasty decisions. Take the opportunity to search for images that truly match your content’s essence and message. Additionally, be diligent in understanding the complexities of copyrights and licenses.

Ensure that the images you select come with the appropriate usage rights. Besides the royalty-free license, this can include:

  • Creative Commons License: Allowing free use of pictures with some restrictions.
  • Rights Managed License: Allows one-time use of the pictures. However, limitations apply according to the display location, user base, and usage period.
  • Public Domain: Pictures that are not backed by any copyright restrictions.

A careful understanding of the legal issues not only safeguards you but also upholds the ethical responsibility of respecting the creative work of others.

It is also a good idea to keep a record of each image you use in your commercial activity. Details, including a link to the stock photo website, the license, and any payment terms, are key evidence in case any party decides to file a claim against you.

Moreover, avoid clutter by refraining from overwhelming your website with too many images. Prioritize a clean and organized layout that allows your content to shine.

Don’t: Ignore Speed and Responsiveness

It’s important to optimize your website’s loading times. Large image files can slow down your website’s performance, leading to frustration for visitors.

Consider compressing the stock photos without compromising their visual quality to ensure efficient loading times. Use modern image formats like WebP, which offer better compression and quality than older formats.

Furthermore, prioritize mobile-friendliness. Many users access websites from various devices, so make sure your chosen stock photos adapt seamlessly to different screen sizes without distorting the visuals or causing slow loading on mobile devices.

Don’t: Use A Simple Image Search On Google Or Bing

Many of us make the mistake of using images we find in search results on Google and Bing. And let’s face it: It is the most convenient way of acquiring pictures. However, these pictures are usually sourced from other websites like yours. They can be subjected to copyright restrictions and licensing issues.

To avoid the pitfalls, we recommend prioritizing reliable stock photo websites for the visuals. You can also filter the search results on Google and Bing to find pictures available for commercial use. You can find the ‘Usage Rights’ option on the ‘Tools’ tab at the top of your image results page. Select the desired usage right according to your needs from the options provided.


To wrap things up, it’s evident that picking stock photos thoughtfully greatly impacts your content and website’s success. Following the do’s and avoiding the don’ts shared here empowers you to create a visually appealing and emotionally engaging experience for your audience.
Remember, this process goes beyond merely adding images; it’s about strategically incorporating visuals into your content. This weaving can tell stories that capture attention, build a connection between the brand and the customer, and leave a lasting impression.

About the Author

Ivanna Attié

Ivanna Attié is a content manager, researcher, and author in various stock media-oriented publications. Rooted in a background of communication and journalism, she also has a great appreciation for literature and the performing arts.


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