This is Part 3 of our stock photography series. Want to read Part 1 and 2 first? Here are the links:
- Part 1: Photo Selection and Creative Cropping
- Part 2: Imaging Editing: Blur, Color, Texture, and Text Overlays
Once you’ve selected and edited your stock photos, you are ready to put them to use! The manner in which you use your stock photography can make or break your project.
In this post, we’ll consider some key dos and don’ts.
Key Do’s and Don’ts in Using Stock Photography
DO Create a Visual Hierarchy
Our eyes can only take in so much information at one time. Successful designs lead our eyes through a carefully crafted “path” of information from the most important to the least important. This “path” of information (aka a visual hierarchy) is created through both visuals and text.
In the above example, order was created with size of type. Our eyes were first drawn to the large type, then moved down the page to smaller and smaller type. If you want a more detailed explanation of hierarchy read 3 Design Principles That Are Guaranteed to Improve Your Art. Here is one example from the article:
Look below. What circle do you see first?
My guess is everyone will see a different one because there is no focal point.
Now, how about this one?
Chances are your eyes were drawn to the dark gray because it stood out. Want to read more about using visual hierarchy? Read this article from another designer: On Visual Hierarchy.
Why is visual hierarchy important?
If you want your marketing message to be successfully conveyed to your readers, you need to convey order clearly and in an organized fashion.
What is the first thing you want your client to see? This is a great opportunity to make a visual splash using one of your stock photos with a text overlay.
The below example is a screenshot from our new website that we are in the process of building (SPOILER ALERT!)
We started with this stock photo:
The stock photo was turned to grayscale with a gray color overlay. This reduced the focus of the image and gave us a nice background to overlay text.
YOUR MARKETING JOURNEY STARTS HERE is the key message we want readers to see first. The smaller type is read next, leading the reader to the ONWARD link to learn more.
DON’T Let Design Elements Compete
Not every piece of text can be a headline, and not every image should be the same size. Otherwise, your design will seem cluttered and confusing.
Unsure if your design utilizes strong visual hierarchy? Do the squint test. Squint your eyes until your design looks blurry. Can you follow any order when the elements are blurred?
Here are 2 examples (no squinting required!). The example on the left has so much going on, it’s hard to know where to start or to find key info. The design on the right has a clearer order to follow visually.
DO: Use Images to Help Tell Your Story and Provide Visual Breaks
Having paragraph after paragraph of text is going to make you lose even your most serious readers. Think back the days when you had to read college textbooks (zzzzzz…..). Instead,
DON’T: Use irrelevant images just to have an image
It might be funny, but images that aren’t relevant are distracting. I should say that again in case you are still thinking about why someone even took the above photo 🙂 Images that aren’t relevant are distracting.
Chances are, there are images for most everything you are discussing. They may be technical or architectural drawings, they could be icons or illustrations, or perhaps there is an office scene that at least supports your topic. Choose something relevant or skip the photo all together. A picture is worth a thousand words, and if they aren’t on the right topic, you might lose readers.
DON’T Use stock images inauthentically
We all want to make our businesses to shine in the best light, but being authentic is more important than having a perfect website.
For example, if you work in an old office building with a less than impressive layout, you are faced with a dilemma, do you show photos of your space, use stock or go with no photos at all? If you use stock photography that shows a clean modern office and a potential client arrives to see quite the opposite, they might feel misled and wonder if you are pulling the same bait and switch on your services.
Another place where honest representation is critical is on your contact page. Showing supermodels on the header image for your company implies that those models work at your office. Unless they really do, stick with real staff pictures or a nice shot of the exterior of your building or office.
DO: Use Stock Images to add high quality photography to your site
Ok, so maybe you work in a space that is less than photogenic. What then?
One alternative would be to use tightly cropped stock photography like below. Showing a desk surface that is ambiguous in setting still provides a nice visual but it won’t reek of inauthenticity.
If you find relevant photos but they have people in them, consider cropping (see our blog post on creative cropping for more tips). The image below tells us there is a doctor, but the lack of a defined environment and cropped faces draw attention to the mood and tone of the photo instead of the details.
Spending time looking for and carefully curating your images might seem like a waste of time, but your images are a key part of your company’s visual identity, and they are often one of the elements potential customers use to form their first impression.