When it’s time to choose stock for your website, the task can seem daunting. With so many options out there, finding what will work best often takes skill and a lot of effort. But, investing time to hunt down the best images makes your site more engaging and can improve user experience.

Read on to get our experts’ six tips for picking out the best stock images for your website.


Choose authentic images

The best images make your customers feel connected to your company.

Sometimes, though, your redesign project’s budget doesn’t cover original photography. Even in those cases, though, with some effort, it’s possible to choose stock for your website that looks on-brand.

Four types of unrealistic stock to avoid

You may think, “Well, don’t all stock photos look like stock photos?” Yes, but also no. Not all stock images are created the same.

Look out for these five tell-tale signs of unrealistic images when you choose stock for your website:

  • Forced expressions: Most people in the real world will grin from ear to ear when eating a bland salad or getting a vaccine shot, but you’d never know it by looking at most stock images. Images featuring people showing inauthentic emotion send the wrong message. Stick with photos where the subjects are making relatable facial expressions.
  • Picture-perfect appearances: Unless your company is a nail salon, all the people in your stock photo shouldn’t have a perfect manicure. Your customers want to see themselves in the individuals shown in photos on your site, and the odds are not everyone visiting your site is Met Gala-ready on a day-to-day basis.
  • Overly “Photoshop”-ed: A knee pain stock photo that shows a person with a red fuzzy blob screened over their knee is less authentic than a picture of a person who might be rubbing their sore knee. Your customer may view those visual shortcuts as false. Choose stock art photographers who compose photos that tell a story with realism.
  • Solid backdrops: Unless your website is designed to feature isolated objects and people, avoid choosing stock images without a background (or with a solid color background or floating in mid-air). Your website users may find these kinds of cheesy, one-note stock photos off-putting.
  • Artificiality: Many stock image sites now allow AI artists to sell their work, but sometimes these images have flaws or give viewers an uncanny valley feeling. One of the most obvious signs that an image was rendered from an AI art tool and not further customized is unnatural-looking hands that no amount of Photoshop can fix.

Pick out images that make sense

Be certain that the stock you choose for your site makes visual sense.

Keep these questions in mind when selecting images:

  • Location relevance: Do these images make sense for my region? Are the details correct for the area you’re in? For example, you wouldn’t choose an image with a coastal view of mountains in the background if your business is in a flat area of the Midwest.
  • Audience relevance: Do the people in your pictures look like your customers? Will your clients see themselves in the stock image models in your chosen photographs? If your target audience is suburban soccer moms, showing 18-year-old college students in a big city doesn’t make sense.
  • Seasonal relevance: Are the images the right choice for the season? For instance, don’t pick stock images showing people wearing winter clothes for a website promotion that goes live during the summertime.

Avoid heavy photo rework

TBH Creative helped Primex Plastic add backgrounds and shadows to isolated, stock product images on their website. Learn about the project

If you have a graphic designer or photo retoucher on your team, finetuning stock might be a piece of cake.

But not every marketing team has someone with the skills (or enough time) to adjust the stock you chose for your site.

That’s why it’s important to, whenever possible, choose stock for your website that doesn’t require a lot of complex rework (e.g., more than simple tweaks like cropping or color correction).

Save your sanity and avoid stock that requires extensive rework to make it fit your design. For instance, going to the trouble of extending the shoulder of a person wearing a wrinkled plaid suit coat is probably a lot more time-consuming than just searching for an alternative picture.


Tips for inserting stock images into your site

After image selection and refinement, it’s time to place your stock graphics into your website’s page layouts.

Proper placement involves more than just uploading and setting an alt tag. Once your stock image is incorporated, double-check that it’s a good fit. Some questions to keep in mind include the following:

  • Will there be some kind of hard-coded button or overlay over the image when it displays? If so, will those elements be readable?
  • If there are people in the picture, are they looking at the content or away from the other text and elements on the page?
  • Does the main headline near the image make sense when next to your chosen image?

Use reputable stock providers

When choosing stock images for your website, the last thing you want to worry about is getting into legal trouble for selecting the best photos. You must be using royalty-free images to reuse the same image more than once. Otherwise, you can find yourself in a bit of trouble.

You want to make sure that you are either using a free image download site like:

If you are planning to use a lot of stock imagery and know you’ll need a large variety, you should plan to choose a photo stock subscription from a reputable stock provider, such as:


What to do after choosing stock

The time you spend to get “just right” images will help create a cohesive online presence. When you choose stock for your website, look for pictures that match your visual brand guidelines. Evaluate critical factors, such as:

  • color
  • lighting
  • composition/crop
  • etc.

Once you’ve selected your perfect stock images, here are three things to do to prepare them for your website.

Get organized

The first thing you’ll want to do after gathering all your images is to manage them so that you and your web team know which graphics will go where and where to find them.

Consider organizing your photos in a spreadsheet and breaking them into columns to define which picture is on which page. You can add links to the original design, each photo, and a column for notes. A notes column is a great way to share specifics about particular images with your team during website production.

Organizing will help ensure that production runs smoother, and you won’t have any extra costs to return and redo things.

Optimize images

Another step after choosing stock images is optimizing your images for the web. Request photo sizes from your developer and preferred formats. You’ll need these details before you can begin your image prep.

You’ll also want to ensure that you are compressing images to keep your web pages loading fast. Use tools like Tiny PNG or Kraken.oi to compress your images after correctly sizing them.

Don’t forget to create a separate folder on your Cloud drive to keep backup copies of all your optimized photos.

Final review time

Last but not least, review your work. Check how the pictures look once cropped and inserted into your web pages.

Do your stock photos create a nice flow on each page and during common user journey paths? Do they accurately represent your brand? How do your webpage’s stock images look when viewed on desktops, tablets, and smartphones?

Pro-tip: Keep backup copies of your purchased stock photos. Having the unedited originals handy will make it easy if you need to handle last-minute tweaks or want to use those assets (with different sizes, crops, etc.) in other campaigns.

At the point of reviewing, you should be able to spot if an image isn’t quite right. Before launch, reevaluate those pictures that aren’t working and adjust accordingly.

FAQs about how to choose photos for your site

Get answers to common questions that website clients often ask about picking out pictures for their websites.

Can I use stock photos on my website?

Yes, using stock images for your website redesign can be a smart way to save money if your project has a tight budget.

Just because stock images are affordable, though, doesn’t mean they are free. They still have a cost.

Can I reuse any image I find online?

Pictures you see on another website or from a Google search are not available for reuse unless posted with an explicit license that permits reuse without restriction.

How much do stock images cost?

It depends. If you are using a free site, then your images will not cost. However, other stock images can range from $0.49–$9.16 per image.

You also can get a monthly subscription that can be anywhere from $9.99 a month for a certain number of images to $2,000+ for a higher number of images per month.

Finding a subscription plan that works for you is worth it if you use stock images frequently.

Who makes stock images?

Professional stock photographers create stock images. These photographers traditionally place their images with one or more stock agencies on a contractual basis. Stock agencies will occasionally accept high-quality images submitted by amateur photographers.

What are rights-managed images?

Rights-managed images typically include a one-time charge based on usage. Some also include the option to purchase, for an additional fee, an exclusive copyright agreement. So, imagine if you were a dentist in the Bay Area. If you wanted to use a rights-managed stock image for billboards but didn’t want your competition to use that same photo, you could buy exclusive rights to the image for a set period of time. Additionally, if you wanted to use that billboard image (that’s a rights-managed graphic) also on your website and in retargeting ads, you’d also need to re-license the image to cover this extended use.

What are royalty-free images?

Royalty-free images are often misinterpreted as free images. That’s not the case. Royalty-free only means that, as the purchaser, you have the right to use the image multiple times with very few restrictions.

What is the difference between royalty-free and rights-managed?

Compared to royalty-free images, rights-managed stock photos are generally more expensive (the extra cost is often due to them being of higher quality). Rights-managed images also often require a fee to cover each different usage where as most royalty-free graphics often have one fixed cost for unlimited use.

Select the best website photos

If you’re struggling with conveying the right imagery on your site and need to revamp things, let us help! At TBH Creative, we know the importance of a strong website. And a great site includes the right photos to tell your story.

Get help finding great images to help your company stand out

TBH Creative helps companies create fast, user-friendly websites. We have what it takes to keep you and your team organized, educated, and in the loop throughout the project. Partnering with us is like having an extended team of experts you can count on.