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Avoiding bad stock photos and tips for effective website images

If you’re a company providing a service, rather than selling products, it can be difficult to take interesting pictures for your website. Product photography has its challenges too, but the question we’re looking at this week is: What kind of pictures should a service-providing company, like a plumbing business or consultancy firm, have on their website? We will tell you how to avoid bad stock photography and give tips for original and engaging photography.

Why do I need to add pictures to my website?

We would always recommend adding visuals to your business website, whether it is a photo, a logo, or a graphic. Here are a few reasons why it is important:

  • In the digital age, our attention spans are shorter than ever. Readers will be more inclined to keep reading text when you use images to split the text up into bite-sized chunks.
  • 65% of people are visual learners (Forbes) and 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual (Kissmetrics), so adding relevant images to your web content can help illustrate your services.
  • Adding images with accurate and relevant titles can be good for search engine optimisation.
  • By adding visuals to your website you can increase traffic through image search results, and you can influence the reader to buy your services.

1. How to avoid cheesy stock photos

The images in stock libraries are often old and overused, and people will be able to tell you’ve used a cheesy stock photo. It is best practice to use your own original images. If you’re no hero with a camera or can’t edit an image, maybe you can ask around if you know any aspiring photographers. We give some tips on how to edit images in our Aviary tool on Trendzer websites.

As a last resort, you can use a stock photo that doesn’t look staged. Make sure to check it doesn’t fall into the categories below and always check the licence agreements!

Examples of bad stock images to avoid at all cost

1. The smiling customer service agent with a headset. Often shown as an example on customer service or ‘contact us’ pages. A picture like this actually shows us the opposite of what you want to achieve, because it looks impersonal and fake.


What to do instead: Take a few pictures of a colleague helping a customer out, and don’t stage it! Choose one where they both smile genuinely.

2. The abstract images or graphics representing ‘success’ or ‘growth’. It’s not original and doesn’t really tell us anything. Often seen on service pages promising slightly vague results!

abstract image

What to do instead: Show results of previous projects where you’ve added value! For example, you could include a testimonial from a customer with their photo next to it. If you have something visual to show off, you could include a “before and after” comparison of a great result you achieved.

3. The ‘business’ images, used on many B2B websites, as a way of conveying a professional image. It shows people in suits at a table, looking at a whiteboard or applauding. Or all of these at once like the example below!


Photo by vuhung, under CC Licensing

What to do instead: Consider what you really want to show with an image like this. Is it about being a professional, about successful partnerships, or about getting results? An image of yourself meeting at a business event or meeting a customer, could work to showcase professional relationships. To illustrate positive results, you could think about designing an infographic to show statistics.

2. Focus on real people and emotions

As you will have gathered from our advice so far, we recommend taking photos of real people working and visiting your business. It’s easy to spot a model in a stock image, because they will look a little bit too perfect! Using a photo of yourself and other people in your company will enhance the credibility of your business and it increases conversion rates (VWO).

And then there are the emotions. A positive image brings out happy emotions, and many people buy for emotional reasons. When taking pictures for your site, think about what would create happy emotions. For example, if you provide care to elderly people, you can take a picture of a caregiver helping out one of their clients. Or if you’re a driving instructor, you could take a selfie with a student who just passed! These type of pictures will put the visitor in their shoes, and it will create an urge to buy your service and be happy like those customers.


Photo by British Red Cross, “Care in the home”, under CC licencing.

3. What does the customer want?

One of the main rules for writing website content is to stress the benefits, rather than the features of your services.

So instead of saying: “We provide consultancy services to small businesses.”
You should say: “With our help, your customer base will grow!”

The same principle goes for images. Customers aren’t usually interested in business specifics or technical details, they will be interested in how your services can make their lives better.

Now it isn’t as easy to show benefits in visuals as it is in writing copy, so here are a few examples that might get you thinking.

  • If you own a pub, instead of just listing the logos of the beers you sell, you could show people enjoying a cold beer in your beer garden.
  • If you own a gym, instead of showing pictures of the equipment, show a picture where an instructor is helping someone with the equipment.


Photo by:

Ready to say cheese?

Hopefully we have given you some good ideas to start taking some original pictures for your website. If you want some more advice on how to choose and edit your imagery, look at our blog articles part 1 and part 2 on this topic.

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