Avoiding Stock Photography Pitfalls

Avoiding Stock Photography Pitfalls

On first glance, the word “stock” in stock photography can be a little misleading, conjuring rows of sterile images. But in reality, stock photography sites are full of diversity. Used the right way, stock photos can inspire new, creative design approaches, opening your mind to a range of possibilities you may not otherwise have considered. Used the wrong way, and a site can look at worst unprofessional and at best sloppy. Here are just a few pitfalls to avoid along the way.

Pitfall #1: Overused and outdated images and cliches.

Regardless of where you find your photos, they should say, “We’re smart, with it, and cutting edge.” You just can’t do that if you pick a photo or a photo theme that’s been replicated on countless pages across the Internet. That means you should avoid not just images that look like they were made in 1994, but also any that have been mocked on any stock photography meme sites, like, “Business people shaking hands,” and “Women laughing while eating salad.” Sort your image search results by any measure other than popularity, like “New” or “Relevance” to stay ahead of the pack. And remember: if you’ve seen it on a ton of sites previously, so has everybody else.

Pitfall #2: Going low-res.

Choosing a low-resolution photo can save money in the short run, but it may cost sales in the long run. As a web-designer, your clients employ you to provide a highly professional look, one they couldn’t put together themselves. Low-res images degrade this quality, and that seriously affects the business’ or site’s brand.

Pitfall #3: Sloppy cropping.

Sloppy cropping

Done the right way, cropping can actually be a way not just to frame your photo professionally but to make that photo your own. Done the wrong way, and cropping, just like low-res images, will set the brand up to be the butt of a joke. Take the time to edit an image so that it does more than just fit into the space. Pay attention to the focus, and never cut off part of a subject or an object unless you’ve got a clear purpose.

Pitfall #4: Using images that are unrelated to the content.

You may love that photo of the sun setting over the ocean, but if it has nothing to do with the content, you’ve missed a key opportunity to frame the site’s tone, mood, voice or subject matter. Instead, go for an image that’s unique, compelling and conveys a message that relates directly to the brand or mission statement.

Pitfall #5: Looking too professional.

Looking too professional

This is a strange one, I know, especially given all that I just said about cropping and low-res images. But there is such a thing as a photo that’s so professional it looks awkward and staged. These shots usually happen in a studio with a white background and feature clean-cut models. Sure, that white background is a great blank palette if you plan on editing the photo, but if you don’t, overly professional photos just make the site visitor more aware that they’re on a website, probably being sold something. When you find photos that look real, users will identify and connect both with the model and with the brand in a basic, visceral manner that will entice them into action.

Pitfall #6:Unnatural cloning.

Unnatural cloning

Let’s say you purchased a fantastic stock photo but it doesn’t fill the allotted to space. All you need to do is clone a few key aspects of the image and extend it, right? Sure, but only if you do it well. When cloning is obvious, the visitor again gets pulled out of their subconscious experience to laugh at the photo’s absurdity. The same goes for adding in something that shouldn’t be there. While it’s good to add in a product when it truly needs to be there, if it doesn’t look natural, it’s not going to have the intended effect.

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Rob Toledo

Rob Toledo

Rob Toledo is working alongside Shutterstock creating guides to the proper use of Links stock photos and Links stock footage in web design. He can be reached on Twitter @stentontoledo.
Rob Toledo

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  • http://www.SchoolPhotoProject.com SchoolPhotoProject

    Dear Rob, thank you for this interesting posting. We’re a small stock photo site that offers free stock photos for students and public in general. No need to open an account or login to view and download our HD photo files. New photos are uploaded daily. Please visit us at http://www.SchoolPhotoProject.com. Thanks again!

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  • http://entertainmentmesh.com/ zavera

    Amazing job guys!!! So much detail put into this!

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  • http://www.webdesign.org/ Julia Agnes

    Thank you a lot for great tips!

    [Reply]

  • http://entertainmentbuzzz.com/ Jia

    good tips

    [Reply]

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