Stock photography can range from totally professional to downright awful and everywhere in between.
The trouble with most good stock photography, however, is that it’s expensive. The average cost per photo is around $9, which can cost hundreds of dollars per month depending on how many you use.
On the other side of the coin, businesses can save money by purchasing cheap or free photos. But as the old saying goes, you often get what you pay for.
So what can you do if you want top quality images for your site (and you need them in bulk), but you don’t want to shell out the money to buy new images every month? You make your own.
Here are a few great ways to create your own inspiring images for your site without spending a penny on boring stock photography.
Not everyone has the budget to hire a professional photographer to take photos for their site, but the reality is you don’t always need a professional to generate images; all you need is a camera.
There are a lot of reasons why DIY photography is preferable over stock photos, including:
- Cost savings – You don’t have to pay for photos that you produce
- Creative license – You can use the photos however you want, you own the copyright
- Control – You can take photos of exactly what you want, how you want
Another huge benefit to using your own photos is that you never run the risk of accidentally using a photo without proper licensing or using the same image as a hundred other sites.
You can always hire a student photographer at a lower rate to take some everyday photos that you can use for your site, like snapshots of people walking, photos of local buildings or businesses, or using a product you sell in action.
You can also supplement them with higher-quality stock photos of things that aren’t as easy to photograph.
Or, if you have the interest, you can take the photos yourself. Even if you only have a modicum of photography talent, you can still create stunning images with relative ease and a little know-how. Sites like Lynda.com (and others) have tutorials for DIY photography beginners.
And who knows, if your photos are good enough, you could probably sell them to a stock photo site and make some money for yourself.
Illustrations are another great way to add charm to your page without sacrificing quality.
Drawings and illustrations are often underutilized because they’re often more difficult and time consuming to create than traditional photos, but they have some benefits over photography that make them worthwhile:
- They’re customizable – You can create any image to fit any piece of content
- They’re whimsical – They can be more fun and honest than traditional images
- They’re engaging – Bad photos can decrease conversions but illustrations improve them
- They’re targeted – You can add text and custom elements to target specific audiences
If you can draw, you can create your own custom illustrations using tools like YouiDraw or Vectr. Or if you’re on a budget, you can inexpensively and easily obtain original illustrations for your page on sites like Upwork and Fiverr.
You could also advertise for a digital illustration student at a local college that can undertake the work for a fraction of the cost.
An infographic is an illustration with a very specific purpose: to visualize data. They have the power to transform boring information into a memorable (and shareable) image, which makes them a perfect alternative to traditional photography.
They can be particularly helpful if you need readers to retain specific data. Studies show that people retain 65% of information presented visually compared with only 10% of information presented verbally.
So how do you know whether or not an infographic would be most useful in place of a regular image?
Infographics can be helpful if:
- You have content or data that needs further explaining, like reports, statistics, or teachable lessons
- You have a specific audience in mind that would use or enjoy an infographic
- You have an end goal to improve conversions or social sharing for your content
You don’t want to replace every single image on a page with an infographic, but there are times when having information broken down into a visually palpable form will help improve your design as well as boost conversions.
Another option to using stock photos is to skip using images all together.
Flat Design, a design philosophy that embraces minimalism, is a growing trend in the world of web design. Instead of images, blocks of colors or patterns are used to segment layouts, and shadows and textures are used to create dimensionality.
Some smaller images, like icons, may be used to differentiate items on a page, but for the most part, images are reduced or eliminated to make way for content.
If you’re seriously over using stock photos on your site but you want to maintain a creative look, consider ditching images for icons and using color and white space to add flair to each page.
You don’t have to be a professional designer to create images that stand out on your site, though you always have the option of hiring a professional to create images for you.
Keep in mind that each image you choose should relate to the page it’s on. As much as possible, tailor your images to the content that surrounds it for maximum impact.
And remember that you don’t have to use images if you don’t want to. While photos can certainly help improve your design and give clarity to information on each page, colors and other more minimalistic elements can work just as effectively.