The Dos and Don’ts of Using Stock Photos

The Dos and Don’ts of Using Stock Photos


When designing your website, you may find you have a photo shortage. High-quality images can help create a more attractive design and also help break up the content a bit. A lot of businesses, law firms included, tend to go to stock photos when in need of more images, but they tend to be overused.

Now, this doesn’t mean all stock photos are bad, or that you shouldn’t use them at all. It does, however, mean you need to be careful with how you implement them on your website. A lot of stock photos are cliché or corny, or simply don’t add any value to your site.

Here are a few important dos and don’ts to consider when you’re searching for stock photos.

DO: Check licensing requirements

Different stock photo websites will have their own image licensing requirements. There are some that allow you to take any image and use without any credit, others might require you to pay for the image or to provide credit for the photo.

Any stock photo website will have all of the licensing requirements you need to know for each individual photo. It’s important you read these requirements carefully and abide by them, as you can get into some significant trouble if you’re caught breaking them. Keep in mind licensing requirements tend to be stricter for commercial use than for people using them for personal purposes.

DON’T: Use images from Google searches

It can be very tempting to find an image you like on Google Images and just take it to use on your website or promotional materials. However, this could cause problems if you do not have the proper licensure to use those images.

There is a bit of a caveat to this rule—you can perform advanced searches on Google Images that allow you to sort by usage rights. But even then, it’s always important to click through to the actual site first and make sure you get the image licensing information directly from the provider, rather than just trusting the Google search results blindly.

DON’T: Pick the very first photo you see

You shouldn’t settle for “good enough” for your website or marketing materials. You should have a clear purpose for selecting a particular photo. This means any photo you choose should clearly convey the message you want the image to get across.

It will be very obvious to people browsing your website or looking at your marketing materials when you selected a photo solely because you wanted a photo in that spot.

DO: Make some edits to your photos

You may be able to edit stock photos to make them better suited to your firm’s brand, which will create a bit more personality and authenticity. If you choose to go this route, you will likely need to work with a professional graphic designer.

Again, make sure the license for the image allows you to make alterations. Some licenses strictly forbid any edits or alterations.

Stock photos do have their place in digital marketing. Make sure you’re using them with a purpose, and that you actually have the rights for any photo you select.


I'm Karin Conroy

Founder of Conroy Creative Counsel, an award-winning recognized leader that has cracked the code of smart, sophisticated, and strategic marketing for law firms.

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