Stock photo vs. Custom photo: Website Image Selection

by | Feb 25, 2020 | Web Development, Website Tips

Home » Website Tips » Stock photo vs. Custom photo: Website Image Selection

Photo of a person browing Stock Photo image library on tablet

Photos and graphics are key to creating engaging, user-friendly websites. Not only can the right images grab and hold the attention of your website visitors, but a great photo can boost brand recognition and build user trust. When it comes to website image selection, there are two basic options — you can use a stock photo or go custom.

What’s a Stock Photo?

Stock images are ready-made photos and graphics that are sold through online brokerages. Some of the larger image brokers have massive libraries with millions of photos available for purchase, while smaller brokers focus on specific industries or topics.

While there are some free stock images available, most are sold for a flat fee that includes a waiver on all royalties. Once you purchase the photo or graphic, it’s yours to use as you please.

How Do Stock Photos Differ From Custom Photos?

By comparison, custom images are photos and graphics created by your web design team or a professional photographer or artist. This category also includes DIY images, such as photos taken on your phone. Additionally, photos that you’ve taken yourself or purchased from a professional are also typically royalty-free unless otherwise specified.

There are two major differences between stock images and custom images — cost and exclusivity.

Stock images are hands-down the most economical option, especially if your only other option is hiring a professional photographer or graphic designer. Many stock photos can be purchased outright for under $10. The cost of hiring a photographer or designer varies, but in almost every case, it’s more expensive than using stock photos.

Another major difference between stock and custom imagery is exclusivity. It’s the website image selection version of buying a dress off the shelf vs. having one custom-made.

Using stock images is definitely the most economical way to add photos and graphics to your website, but be aware that the same image could be used by any other individual, company or organization. This means your website could wind up looking similar to another organization, and you run the risk of your competitors using the exact same images on their sites.

Stock Photo vs. Custom Images – What’s Better?

Website image selection comes down to a few key factors:

  • Price/budget
  • Your particular branding strategy
  • Access to custom photography and graphic design
  • Your online marketing goals

If you simply want to create a basic, no-frills website that strikes a balance between cost and design, using ready-made stock images could be a good option. While there’s always a risk that the images you choose might be used on multiple other sites, using stock images is far better than omitting images altogether.

On the other hand, if you’re willing to invest in a high-quality website that will serve as the cornerstone of your marketing efforts, custom photos and graphics may be worthwhile. This is especially true for businesses that want to use their website to show off their products and services, such as restaurants, hotels, contractors and other service-orientated companies.

Ready to learn more about website image selection? Give us a call here at Comit Developers, where no project is too big or too small.


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Lauren Woodall

Lauren leads a team of talented website designers and developers. She sets the bar and is continuously raising it to ensure our knowledge and skills are never out of date. Follow her blog posts to learn about best practices in website development, the latest trends in website design, and creating user experiences (UX) that turn website visitors into faithful customers.

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