Choosing the Right Images for Your Online Presence

Unique Stock Images

Selecting the right images for your online (and offline) presence is extremely important. As you know, our brains make sense of the world through images, so even if it’s mostly subconscious – people are making sense of your business based on the images you display.

Bad imagery can leave your prospects confused or unimpressed, or worse – feeling turned off (like the use of generic clip art – eeek!). Good imagery, on the other hand, can actually evoke positive emotions that are strong enough to cause a person to like you and your business for ‘no apparent reason’.

So, how do you choose the right images for your website, blog, email newsletter, Facebook cover photo etc?

Finding the right images

First, it’s best if you can use your own, original, professional images. Ones that you’ve taken yourself (if you’re a decent photographer) or hired a photographer to take for you. Especially if it is for something you’re going to use repeatedly that will be quite central to your branding.

Best Stock Photos

But, there are many times when using your own custom images isn’t feasible, and that’s when this information is going to come in really handy for you. For example, you don’t ever want to publish a blog post without an image (especially since the image will show as the thumbnail when people share your article in social media), and stock photos can be a great way to do get a nice image quickly and inexpensively.

I’ve put together a list of stock photo websites that have great images that are either affordable or free.
If you have other sources of images that you use and want to add, please post a comment below and we’ll expand the list.

Some notes about stock photos:

1Stock images are sold over and over again to different people, unless you pay big bucks to buy the image outright, and are labelled ‘Royalty Free’ because you just pay once for the image, not per use. Tip: Try to choose images that aren’t listed as “popular” to lessen the probability of seeing your image elsewhere (that happened to me once – I chose an image I thought was pretty unique, and later saw it in an ad on the back of a bus).

2We’re all getting tired of seeing generic, perfect smiling people in stock photos (I even saw a stock photo of a group of people used on an ‘About’ page instead of showing their actual team – major faux pas!). Try to go for images that have a “realness” to them – believably. So that your website visitors don’t instantly think “yep, that’s a stock photo for sure”. (And never use a stock photo to mislead people. For example, you wouldn’t want to show a stock picture of a trendy downtown office when you really work from home.)

Unique stock photo sites

Veer – I like the images on this website because they are pretty unique, and affordable if you use the bar to the left to select your price range. Visit Site

PhotoDune – I like this database because you can clearly see how many times the images has been sold. And I find the quality of the images here is very good, and good prices. Visit Site

Dreamstime – over 16 million images, lots of believable non-stock-looking photos, cheap. Visit Site

National Geographic Stock – amazing international images (starting around $100). Visit Site

iStock – great image database, but beware of the orange and blue flames on the image that tell you it’s a popular image. Orange means it’s been downloaded 100+ times, blue means 1000+. Visit Site


DeviantArt – This is a fantastic website of artists who contribute to a database of imagery. When you find something you like, you just have to check what the artist has said about image usage. A lot of the images are free to use so long as you provide a link back to the artist. Visit Site

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About the Author

Terri DaviesI’m a down-to-earth, technically savvy, modern marketing inspired designer, educator, and coach. I’ve been working online for nearly 10 years now, and early on realized I had a knack for spotting the remarkable aspects of a person or business bringing that online. I truly love what I do, and I am happiest when I am working with my team, making beautiful things for heart-centred entrepreneurs (especially when I'm doing that from my mobile office in a tropical country).View all posts by Terri Davies →

  1. adria

    Or better yet… don’t use stock images at all. Hire an amazing photographer an original look custom made just for you.

    • Terri Davies
      Terri Davies03-27-2013

      Adria I totally agree – there is no competition for original images. If I didn’t make that really clear in the post, then it’s definitely worth emphasizing here. And you are a great choice for people looking for a photographer on Vancouver Island.

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