To Stock or Not to Stock

How to choose images for websites

Imagery, it can make or break a website. Sadly is often a last minute thought when creating a website. The following is an all too familiar situation:

You are half way through the build stage. The design had all these gorgeous full bleed background images evoking just the right tone, however they were just placeholders, and now it is two weeks till the website launch date and you need real images now!

You ask the designer to find some “similar images” on a stock photography site but they come back with a whole bunch of average. And that can be the problem with stock images, sometimes they are just “meh” – they don’t say anything, only look ok and are inconsistent.

This is the point where you wish that you had thought about this earlier. And it all comes down to planning and budgeting.

Options for website images

1. Stock Photography 

Stock photography can work. It is reasonably cheap, ready made and good quality images do exist. However it can take hours to days of time trawling through sites finding the “right” images and it is near impossible to find a set of matching photos on your particular subject matter.


  • Inexpensive
  • Offers flexibility and changes in artistic direction


  • Consistency can be hard to achieve
  • Sometimes it looks generic
  • Time consuming
  • Final product is sometimes not as desirable as imagined

2. Custom Photography

Employing a freelance photographer is a great option for those who have a clear direction of what style of photography they want. It can even be cost effective if you need to have staff photos shot at the same time. This option is used often with our health and business clients where there is a wealth of imagery at their offices and they are after a professional, clean outcome. It is also essential for furniture and fashion businesses. Custom photography infuses the feel of your company into your website and looks truly unique and real.


  • Get exactly the images you want
  • Real, authentic images that reflect your company/organisation
  • No potential copyright issues as you own the intellectual property


  • Can be more expensive
  • Needs more careful planning


3. Illustration

For a really interesting, memorable and unique website, you could investigate using illustrations. Illustrations can be very evocative, and you know no one else will have the same images as you. This option is great for clients who want their website to be bespoke and authentic, connecting with their audience. Fantastic for more creative fields such as florists; non profits such as environmental organisations; business pioneers and entrepreneurs.


  • Unique, tactile and memorable
  • No potential copyright issues as you own the intellectual property


  • Need to allow for time to create illustrations in project timeline
  • More expensive than stock


4. Graphic treatment

Another less conventional option is to have the design of your website be focussed on graphic styling or strong typography so it doesn’t have to rely on photographs. This route has been employed by some amazing sites (see: Lunar Gravity and Point Oh) however would need custom coding and a clear direction from the planning stage of the site.


  • Eye catching and memorable
  • Save money on buying images


  • Needs to be decided early in the project
  • Not visually suitable for all sites
  • Usually involves some level of custom coding

Whichever way you decide to go, each path can result in stunning imagery that is just right for your site.

Talk to us today if you’d like to know more about which style of imagery to use on your site.

Image sourced from Unsplash.

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