A woman working on a laptop with a camera as a stock images

Stock Images or Real Photos: What to use for your Website?

Imagine a website with zero images. It’s hard, isn’t it?  In the age of the visually-driven internet, web designers have a choice: either to choose stock images or to get real photos instead.

According to research, 67% of consumers find websites without images a complete turn-off.

The question is: which option should you choose? And why?

In this guide, we will explore both choices and weigh their pros and cons to understand which one is better for your website.

Let’s get started!

Real Photos

Real photos always stand at the top of the list when building trust with your audience. These images give your site a more realistic look. People always relate to the real things in life, so they prefer to see pictures of real products and people.

London bridget website of stock images

Take the example of London Bridge. They have hired a professional model that resonates with their target demographic. Their model looks like someone the target audience would definitely know.

Now let’s understand the pros and cons of using real photos on your website.

Pros of Real Photos:

1.   Uniqueness

The real beauty of using original photos is the uniqueness you portray to the audience. You offer customers a real glimpse of the product, which they will rarely see anywhere else. Since these images are customized according to your brand, they add genuineness to your website.

2.   Build Trust

The more your website conveys realistic information, the better it is for your business. Real photos create an element of trustworthiness on your website because of their natural, realistic look.

3.   Sell Unique Products

Real photos can help convince your customers to buy your product if you sell unique and rare products. For instance, if you sell art and handicraft items at a higher price, using original images can help convince customers.

Cons of Real Photos:

1.   Very Expensive

Real photos are expensive, especially if you want to use them for an entire site. When you decide to use original photographs for your website, you will need to consider the cost of outsourcing. For example, you will need to hire a professional photographer, designer, and editor. You will also need to pay for models, location fees, and even transport expenses.

2.   Time-consuming

In the competitive digital world, you cannot simply grab a camera, click a picture, and upload it on your page. For a professional end-result, you will need to hire a professional to do the job. The shooting along with post-processing will take several days (even weeks) to complete. This will require a lot of time, which can be one of the disadvantages of using original photos.

Stock Photos

Stock photos are ready to use images taken by professional photographers. They are a great resource of inexpensive (and even free) visuals that you can use in any digital or print marketing campaign. Such images give you more freedom in your business, since they don’t require hiring professionals, time commitment and higher budget.

They provide as much value as real photos, are affordable and easy to use. In fact, Greg M, Vancouver, from Google once said, “It doesn’t make a difference whether it’s a stock photo vs an original photo.”

Stock images are ideal for your website because they are constantly being produced to fit the current trends and styles.

Take the example of Knobs homepage:

Knobs.co uses stock images

They have stock photos to represent their brand. But look how professional their website looks!

Pros of Stock Photos:

1.   Affordable

Mostly, you only pay for the image once. It makes stock photos more affordable than custom ones. The money you save can be utilized in other creative areas of your business, such as improving the website or expanding your team.

2.   Wide Range of Niche-related Images

That’s the plus with stock photos: they are available for every niche. You will find stock images for almost any industry. Plus, most stock photo websites host millions of high-quality images – leaving you spoiled for choices.

3.   Easily Customizable

Stock photos are also easily customizable. You can alter them to fit your website’s visual style. For instance, you can replace the image background with whatever color you want. You can also remove certain objects in the frame, change the lighting, or make other modifications.

Cons of Stock Photos

1.   License Restrictions

The license restrictions are the downside of using stock photos. You can often get around it by modifying or customizing the image. But sometimes, you will still need to buy a license if you want to use it on more than one website.

Following are the types of licenses to get stock photos.

Public Domain:

In this license, the image is available for free, which can be used without any restrictions. You can use them in all kinds of projects with no limitations.


With this license, you only need to pay for the image once. After paying, you can use the pictures for as many projects as desired. The royalty-free type is the most popular license. Most web design agencies prefer royalty-free licenses.

Rights Managed:

This license lets you use the image only once. If you want to use it on another project, you will need permission from the image’s owner.

2.   Duplicate Images

Stock photos often have a very similar look. If you use stock photography on your website, make sure to choose images that are different from each other. It will make your website more visually interesting and provide a better user experience.

3.   Stock Photos are Very Common

It’s true that stock images are normally of high quality but a lot of the photos are used by other people. That makes them look a little bit less original and professional.

Apart from buying the license, many businesses opt for readily available free stock images in the public domain. Although it saves them a few bucks, it costs them in terms of customer views. You see: free stock images are accessible to everyone. This means anyone can download and upload on their site. And you can’t claim the right since you don’t own it.

In such cases, it’s better to take pictures from paid stock photo agencies as they are more exclusive. These pictures will give unique content to your site, which will give you a competitive edge.

Some popular paid stock photo sites include:

  1. Shutterstock
  2. Stock Photo Secrets
  3. iStock
  4. Adobe Stock
  5. Stock Photos


Whether you decide to use real photos or stock images, the important thing is that it should match your brand and communicate your message.

No matter the type of image you choose, ensure it is high quality and properly optimized for SEO.

Give your site’s visitors a unique visual experience with high-quality images. And if you want to save valuable time and money, opt for stock photos instead of real images.

Good luck with your website building!