It may be hard to imagine, but there was a time when it was rare to find a high quality photo on a typical website. Only high-budget players had access to compelling images. And even then, they were probably borrowed from existing printing materials.

Those of us who build websites for smaller organizations were often left with less than ideal solutions. The lack of available resources made it even more challenging. We had to settle for such things Clip art (yikes) or low-quality images removed from CDs. Despite creating your own work of art, creating a state-of-the-art visual experience was not easy.

How things have changed. Today, images are available from all corners of the network. You will find everything completely free images all the way to high-end premium options.

Yet the mere existence of these images does not necessarily mean good design. Success still requires a careful eye and intelligent implementation.

Today we look at the impact of photographic images on web design. We discuss both good and bad as well as tips for finding the right image for your projects.

Bringing visual experiences to the masses

Perhaps the biggest benefit of using stock photos on a website is the ability to create a highly visual presentation. Long passages of uninterrupted text are often resented. They are more likely to shut down users than capture them. Adding photos to the mix helps break things up into bite-sized pieces.

In theory, this also allows the content on the light page to look more relevant. Prior to the widespread use of stock images, it was not easy to put on a page that consisted of just a song or two. Images can help provide a more professional and detailed look.

Another big step forward is that these images make it easier to convey the message. It can be infographic which simplifies a complex idea. But it can also be a photo that sets the mood, or an icon that makes user interaction more intuitive.

In this way, stock photography has brought the potential for a great visual experience for the masses. Now even small and small business websites have a chance to stand out.

Restrictions on stock images

At a time when we have access to almost every stored media, there are still limitations. For example, having millions of songs in your music app doesn’t mean it includes all of your favorites.

Archival photography has similar limitations. The available images do not always suit your exact needs. Size, shape and subject are not always perfect. There are cases where web designers have to settle for “good enough”.

There are a few factors that can ruin an image, so to speak:


Cost may not correlate with quality. Excellent photos can be found for free. But even free resources don’t always have the largest selection of images. Because lower your budget, the less choice you have.

Surrounded by member sites

More and more image bank membership sites are opening up. You pay a monthly or annual fee in exchange for the availability of photos. If you find multiple images that you can use in your project, it’s often a good value.

Yet these types of agreements can also be quite restrictive. For designers who spend most of their funds on a budget, you’re pretty stuck with what they’re offering. Suppose their choice does not suit your needs, too bad. You may need to look for another resource for more relevant images or settle for available ones.

country farm field with wooden fence

Lack of originality

While there are tons of photos in stock, it looks like a good portion of what’s out there has become a cliché. Photographers and service providers try to address common themes and widespread use. This has led to a certain similarity in different photographic resources.

And there’s a rub on stock photography. It cannot serve the unique needs of each website. There are just so many ways to describe two shaking people, for example.

Confusion of copyright

One thing that hasn’t really changed over the years is the confusion of copyright. During the time, designers and website owners often grabbed other sites and posted them. They did so without thinking about their usage restrictions. The steady stream of copyright roles infringement letters put an end to this.

But licensing can still be hard to understand – even from reputable photographic resources. In some cases, the images are for editorial use only. Webmail is also subject to restrictions on the maximum image resolution. Finding out how and where an image can be used can scare some people completely.

Copyright Logo CC paper

Finding the right photo for your projects

Sometimes find real pictures for your website is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. What you need (or something close to it) probably exists, but you may have to dig through several resources before you can find it. Situations that require customer approval for images make things difficult.

And while there’s no guarantee you’ll find the perfect match, you can do some basics to improve your chances. Here are some of the techniques used to find the best images:

Identify your favorite resource

It is helpful that you have several reliable stock photography sites. Some of these resources may serve a specific niche and are useful at times. Others focus more broadly and are great for your daily needs.

The key is to avoid dependence on a single resource. Instead, look for a handful of places with quality images, clear terms of use, and different styles. This offers both you and your customers a large number of image options.

Think of the picture need before time

Each website project has its own unique needs in terms of photography. They include factors such as the subject, color, size, and anything else in the photo improvements you may want to do. The general rendering of these objects should facilitate the search.

Ideally, if you know this information, you can choose the most appropriate one from your list of photo resources – right from the start. This (hopefully) means less exploration and a more efficient process.


You can sometimes return to the strict definition you are looking for. Even the best photo photography sites probably don’t have images that are identical to the images you imagine. Therefore, it is worth keeping an open mind.

Don’t be afraid to try images that aren’t 100% consistent with the original plan. Choose a few interesting ones and see how they work with your design. In some cases, the results may even be better than expected.

The person looks through a magnifying glass.

Stock photography is a tool: use it wisely

Few design resources are able to transform a website just like stunning photography. It can take a plan and make it something that has character and context. In particular, stock photography has brought this visual potential to everyone.

However, best practices continue to apply. Just like anything else, stock images can be misused. The result may well be a bloated website that is too image weighted. In addition, incorrect image types can result in an overall look that does not stand out.

While it’s great that we have so many photographic resources, designers need to make the best use of them. For this reason, it’s good to think that image photography is just one tool we can use – not something to build a website or save its mediocrity.

Despite these warnings, stock photography has had a positive impact on web design. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine building a compelling website without it.


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