A picture says a thousand words. When it’s on your website (or your clients’ websites), it says even more. Often, it’s the stock photos you choose that leave a good first impression on your target audience. I can’t count all the times I’ve seen potential customers turn away at the first sight of a photo they’ve seen on every other web designer’s site.
However, with so many choices for stock images, the selection process can be overwhelming.
In this article, I’ll show you the 5 best stock photos sites for you and your clients.
Let’s take a look!
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Why You Need Great Graphics for Your Website
You wouldn’t hang ugly artwork in your home, and neither should you build a website with low-quality graphics.
Often, entrepreneurs focus on content. If you’re creating a website to represent your business, you’ll likely focus on service pages. However, your clients won’t even get that far unless you have enticing graphics at the forefront.
The way humans think is visual.
We’re capable of processing more information when it’s relayed through visual stimuli (90% of information brain processes is visual). Sure, text is great. But we need something to jog our curiosity first.
Not to mention that using the wrong stock photos and graphics can lead to some serious trouble:
- Clients walking away
- Brand/service disparities
- Lack of brand recognition
- Legal issues
The trick to running a profitable business is differentiating your brand from your competitors. But if your images and graphics look exactly like your competitors’, you won’t be able to stand out from the crowd.
If you have unique photos, your clients will perceive you differently.
They’ll take your services into consideration with more gravity. That’s simply what psychologically happens when we’re faced with something new – it intrigues us immediately.
Finally, when you choose the right stock photos, you’ll avoid legal issues.
Stock licenses can be tricky. Sometimes you’re allowed to use photos for non-commercial purposes. However, when they’re used on a website meant to sell something (be that a product or a service), you’re technically using the photos commercially and risking legal prosecution.
Now, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on getting unique photos. However, you can source your graphics from reputable stock photo sites.
Ultimately, after you start using graphics from one of the best stock photos sites I’ll list, you’ll be seeing a lot more clients than before.
How to Use Stock Photos
In order to use stock photos successfully, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
1. Know Your Hierarchy
Before you start downloading photos left and right, make sure you’ve designed your website. There’s no point in selecting photos before you know your design constraints.
This is especially important if you plan on paying for the stock photos.
Once you’ve prepared your website design, you’ll know the type and format of images you can work with, and select your stock assets accordingly.
Regardless of whether you’re designing your own website or a website for your client, it’s going to be the storefront of the brand.
This means that you need to pay attention to visuals and color palettes.
The stock photos you choose have to fit the branding.
If you’re working with a brand that has a soft, romantic aesthetic, you shouldn’t go for technical images.
It’s a good idea to consult your client before you purchase the stock photos to ensure that the images go with the branding, and you don’t waste any money on the wrong photos. You can also use free stock photos for mock-ups before selecting the final images.
3. License Types
While the majority of stock photos are royalty-free, that doesn’t mean you can do whatever you’d like with them.
Make sure you double-check the license under which you’re downloading your photos:
- Can you use the images commercially?
- Can you modify the images freely?
- How many times can you use the images?
- Do you have to give credit to the photographer?
The best stock photos sites we’re covering in this article include license guidelines with each photo, so you’ll be safe.
If you’re using other sources, make sure you know the legal constraints before you embed them into the site.
4. Use and Reuse Images
If you want to make the most of the images you download and/or buy (and your license allows it), you can customize and reuse them.
From editing images in graphic software to creating additional materials, you can do plenty with just a few stock images.
If you can also get some of your own images (e.g. product images), you can combine them and create enticing visuals to draw more clients to your/your clients’ sites.
Websites Using Photos the Right Way
Graphics can produce some really great results for your freelancing business. Images draw a lot of attention, and if you’re not using them correctly, you’re just wasting valuable space on your site. Using the right images, however, can boost your site’s conversions and create a better connection with your target audience.
For example, did you know that adding a smiling photo to your website can increase conversions by 10%?
Check it out:
Step 1: Take a serious photo of yourself where you’re not smiling.
Step 2: Retake the same photo, but this time smile.
Step 3: Split test the two images on your website.
Alwin achieved 1.3% more signups, 9.9% more sales, and 10.7% more profit!
Imagine getting more clients and generating more revenue for your freelance developer business by using a smiling photo of yourself on your website.
Need more examples of using graphics effectively?
Watch me review three websites that use stock photos to increase engagement and conversions on their site. We specifically analyze the websites of Living Well, Spending Less, Michael Hyatt, and Self-Publishing School.
Now that you know the power of images, it’s time to find amazing photos!
Let's dive into the best stock photos sites for 2019.
5 Best Stock Photos Sites for Your Website
Shutterstock is at the very top of my list, and for a good reason: they have amazing photos, as well as videos and music. So if your clients (or you) want an interactive website, you’ll have no problem sourcing footage.
Their library has over 200 million royalty-free stock photos, graphics, and illustrations. There’s plenty of variety to pick from. And since they’re one of the oldest stock photo sites, they maintain high standards of quality, ensuring that you get the most bang for your buck.
Shutterstock also has a premium stock collection – Offset.
In there, you’ll find photos captured by award-winning photographers and agencies. The collection is the perfect option for your more exclusive clients who want to stand out in the market in every way possible.
Shutterstock has a variety of subscription-based plans:
- $29/mo – Download 10 images every month ($2.90 per image)
- $99/mo – Download 50 images every month ($1.98 per image)
- $169/mo – Download 350 images every month ($0.48 per image)
- $199/mo – Download 750 images every month ($0.27 per image)
Offset collection photos are also available for exclusive use. They do come at a heftier price point (they can often be up to $500 per photo for non-exclusive use), but if your clients want photos no one else has, they can absolutely achieve that level of exclusivity with Shutterstock.
Shutterstock also has its more affordable option: Bigstock.
In general, the $99/mo plan is a solid option if you’ll be combining your clients’ photos with stock photos.
However, if you often get clients that want you to use stock photography that’s on par for their brand course, it pays to invest a little more into your Shutterstock plan.
After all, beautiful graphics are the cornerstone of a website’s success.
2. Adobe Stock
Adobe is a graphic design powerhouse; from their graphic editing software, Photoshop, to a plethora of other projects empowering creators and web designers.
So it’s no wonder that Adobe Stock has found its place at the very top of our best stock photos sites list.
While not a free stock photo site, it’s more than worth its price tag.
Adobe Stock comes with an array of images; their library has over 80 million images and videos, as well as vectors and illustrations. You can also open them immediately in Adobe’s Creative Cloud apps.
Adobe Stock’s diverse images fit in with even the most specific branding.
If you want to make your website pop, opt for some of the beautiful illustrations available on their website. And if you want to get graphic elements to scale and reuse, you’ll find just the thing in their vector collections.
Similarly to Shutterstock, Adobe Stock also has a premium collection of photos you won’t be able to find anywhere else. However, unlike Shutterstock, you won’t be able to buy out the photo, just license it.
Adobe Stock Pricing
Adobe Stock offers a variety of plans:
- $29.99/mo for up to 10 assets a month ($2.99 per asset)
- $79.99/mo for up to 40 assets a month ($1.99 per asset)
- $169.99/mo for up to 350 assets a month ($0.48 per asset)
- $199.99/mo for up to 750 assets a month ($0.26 per asset)
If you want videos or premium images, you’ll need to purchase credit packs which start at $50 per credit pack.
All in all, Adobe Stock is a great option if you just need images.
It offers competitive pricing, which is perfect for web designers who want to make stunning websites for their clients.
Try Adobe Stock free for one month
Depositphotos started out way back in 2009, and turned into one of the most interesting microstock photo agencies today. It offers over 130 million royalty-free photos, videos, and vectors. It also offers editorial and news images, so there’s plenty to pick from.
You can get photos through image packs or subscriptions, so you have a lot of flexible options to work with. This is a great option if only some of your clients need stock photos, while others provide their own.
Regardless of the website you want to add beautiful stock photos to, you’ll find something in Depositphotos’ diverse offering.
You can search by topics, colors, licensing, and even use the reverse image search.
Depositphotos is one of the most budget-friendly stock photo providers in the market:
- Flexible plan: $29/mo for up to 30 photos a month (unused downloads transfer to next month)
- $69/mo for up to 75 photos a month
- $99/mo for up to 150 photos a month
- $199/mo for up to 750 photos a month
Depositphotos also offers annual pricing (especially handy when you only occasionally need stock photos):
- $49/year for up to 10 images
- $99/year for up to 25 images
- $299/year for up to 100 images
All in all, Depositphotos is a great, budget-friendly option when you need a few stock photos to improve the appearance of your websites. However, if you need stock photos more than a few times a year, it’s much better to go with one of the monthly plans.
The pricing is so competitive that it’s hard to find a more affordable solution that Depositphotos.
If you and your clients don’t want to pay for stock photos, you can always go with one of the amazing free stock photo providers such as Unsplash.
What originally started as a blog with leftover photos, Unsplash quickly turned into a thriving community connecting photographers with clients in need of great images for their websites.
Unsplash offers over one million free, high-quality images, so we had to include it on our list of best stock photos sites.
Unsplash’s license is great! Despite the images being free, you can use them for both commercial and noncommercial purposes. You can copy, modify, and distribute the photos freely. You don’t even have to give credit to the photographer.
The only thing you can’t do is compile photos to steal their business model, but that’s about it.
However, the major caveat of a free service is that you’ll likely find photos everyone else is using, too. So if differentiation is a major factor for you and your clients, try a different, paid service. I personally love using Unsplash photos for mockups before deciding on the definitive visuals with the client.
Ultimately, Unsplash offers a variety of photos; from nature and artsy, to business and portraits, there’s something for everyone.
Pixabay is another great stock photo provider.
Similarly to Unsplash, Pixabay offers over one million high-quality stock images, illustrations, and videos completely free.
With Pixabay’s license, you can copy, modify and use the images for commercial and non-commercial purposes without crediting the photographer. This is a great option if you’re creating mockups or testing different visuals.
However, just as with Unsplash, you’ll be using a lot of generic photos. It’s the main caveat of free stock photography sites.
When it comes to variety, Pixabay is different from Unsplash. You’ll find a lot more technical and nitty-gritty photos on it.
All in all, it’s a great solution if you won’t be using a lot of stock photos on your website!
Now It's Your Turn!
You now understand the importance of using great stock photos for your website and the five best stock photos sites for you and your clients.
And now I’d like to turn it over to you:
Which stock photo provider will you choose?
If you're already using one of these services, what has your experience been like so far?
Or maybe you have a question.
Either way, leave a comment below right now.
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