Options for Purchasing Photos, Images, and Illustrations for your Website

If you’re building a website you’re most certainly going to need some images.

You have a couple options, you can either take the images yourself, hire a photographer, or purchase images online. The images you put on your website may be more important than the text you write because they will immediately trigger an emotional response internally to the viewer. The images that you use on your website are going to do one of two things:

  • they are going to build trust
  • or they are going to erode trust

You want people visiting your website to have trust in you as a service provider. You build that trust through your images on your website, because they are going to make your website look up-to-date.

Where to find images for your website

There are three options:

  • We can purchase a subscription somewhere
  • We can purchase a photo one at a time
  • We can find them for free

First, let’s talk about the subscription model.

Usually photo platforms are either a monthly fee or a yearly fee and in general you get a certain amount of images you’re allowed to download. For example, I have a subscription to one site and I’m able to download 50 images every month and each month those credits renew. So on the first of every month, I get a new 50 images that I’m able to download. Other subscription services may give a certain number for the entire year; Such as 300 images for the entire year and you can buy them all at once or you can buy them later in the year. Three things to think about when purchasing a subscription are:

  1.  Does the subscription platform allow you to roll over unused credits to the next year if you continue their subscription?
  2. How much does the subscription cost?
  3. How good is this search? Meaning, when you go to search for a certain category term does it pull up relevant high quality images suited to your business.

Second, let’s talk about purchasing one photo at a time.

The second way to purchase images online is to buy them one at a time. This is great if you don’t need a lot of images for your website.  Something to keep in mind while buying photos one at a time is that the prices of each photo can vary. Some services have a base level where the images are good quality for a less expensive price tag and the better the photo composition and quality the more expensive they are. Expect to pay anywhere from a couple dollars up to 100 dollars per image. Also, it depends on if you are using these images in a really prominent spot on your website and not changing them, or are you going to be using them for blog posts?  If you’re blogging a lot you need images all the time- therefore, you should think ahead on if you want to spend one at a time for each blog post or do you want to get a subscription service.

Lastly, Let’s talk about free photos.

You can get photos for free however, there are some things you need to consider when going with this option. Just because they are free doesn’t mean it’s the best option.

You cannot just use any image you find on the Internet! This is stealing and you can get in legal trouble for it. Many of the services have watermarks on their images, so you can’t use them. This was not always the case, as many years ago many images did not have watermarks  and you could download or take a screenshot of that image and use it on your website. Well, there are reverse image services where you can put in an image, click search, and get the company who actually owns the image. If you haven’t paid for the image they can come after you with really hefty fines.

You can use free images with a free service. You create an account and depending on the service, they will let you use them for free and sometimes the service will ask for attribution. Attribution means they would like you to give credit in the footer of your website stating that this image was taken from this website or taken by said person. Each website will tell you how to give attribution. There’s something called Creative Commons License. What that means is, you can use it but you maybe can’t modify it, can’t sell it, or can’t put it into another piece you’re creating.

Some Considerations when Finding Good Images

Now that we have the legalities out of the way, when searching for free stock photos, try to find images that don’t look “stocky”. For example, the online customer service agent photo that you see everywhere – the one with the person with the little mouthpiece that’s talking online and looks super happy to the point it looks cheesy is NOT a good choice. We want to look for interesting compositions within the image. This means look for images taken from a different angle or ones that have a nice filter on them creating contrast that’s a little bit different than a normal photo.

Another thing to look for in images online is to consider how you will use this photo, Will this be a background image for a row? If so, you may want to look for one that has a solid background or a simple patterned background. This way, you can add content on to the left or the right of the image. If the background is a solid color, you may be able to extend the image to the left or right, making it wider to fit a wide screen.

Using Illustrations as Opposed to Photos

There is also the option of using illustrations instead of photographs. Adding illustrations to your website adds an additional layer such as a little whimsical feeling, adding a custom feel. There are a lot of illustrations you can purchase online- which work the same way as buying photographs- so that these look a little bit different than a typical photo.


Saving and Sharing Your Choices of Images

Lastly, many of these services online allow you to have what’s called a light box or a light board. This allows you to create a folder and save images in this folder to be reviewed later. This is better than bookmarking all of the images because it organizes the files and the folder is also shareable. Being able to share your photos with your web developer or colleague allows them to see which images that you like. Your web developer can possibly download the stock image with the watermark, put it onto your website during developmental phases, to see if it looks the way that you want before purchasing them.  This is a great way to “try before you buy”.

These are a few great options when looking for images to enhance your website!

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