Stock images for B2B websites: how to sift out the duds

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Published Aug 29, 2019 | Written by Jeremy Knight

If you have ever trawled through a stock photography website in search of images to represent your business, you will already appreciate that it can be a bit of a minefield. On the one hand, stock image sites give you easy access to professional photography (or illustration) and save you valuable time and resources.

The flip side is, frankly, there is such an excess of naff material out there. It can take some effort to source images that truly reflect your brand.

What people find aesthetically pleasing is pretty subjective on the whole. Of course it is, that’s what makes the world an interesting place! However, there are some overarching trends and tastes that can reliably predict what images your buyer personas are likely to admire or spurn.

Here’s our advice on finding diamonds in the rough. These tips aren’t so much hard rules, as things you might want to be aware of during your image selection process.

How do you weed out stock photography that will turn your B2B buyer personas off? Let's take a look.

Seek authenticity

Nobody likes a poser. It can be off-putting when models in a scene are very obviously performing for the camera.

The symptoms are: a lack of movement, staring directly to camera, unnatural symmetry, smiling with the mouth but not the eyes, multiple people edited together. All of these things can make a scene look artificial and off-putting.

Consider where people are placed in the composition, and what they are doing. If you look at the scene, can you tell what the photographer might have directed the models to do? For example, do you think they instructed everybody to put their hands in the air and smile, or all look at your phones and feign interest? 

Choosing authentic images

Candid photos are much more relatable than staged ones.

If the people in your image look frozen or stiff, your audience will quickly pick up on it.

Get the tone of voice right

Avoid images that have been retouched with a heavy hand. They detract from your message and don't age well.

Often, it takes a while to find an image that contains the right content - and then a little while longer to find something that has both the content and the right aesthetics. Don't settle on the first image that matches your search query if it is badly photoshopped and doesn't match your brand. Take a look at the words used to describe the image you have found and explore further, more attractive imagery around the theme.

What does that look like in practice? Let's compare these two images. One has very high contrast, blown out colours and a very unnatural composition. The result: a gimmicky and cartoonish tone. 

Setting the tone example

Business images can afford to be more abstract.

In the context of a B2B business blog, perhaps the second image would be a better choice. It takes the idea of being lost, in danger or cast adrift, and communicates that message in a less brash - but equally powerful - manner. 

Sometimes, it is better to communicate a feeling rather than a literal interpretation. What emotion do you want to provoke? Which scenarios relate to that? Try to think in terms of analogies, metaphors and similes rather than explicit descriptions.

​Avoid busy photos

​​What is the focal point of your image? If you can't answer, because there isn't one that jumps out, that's a warning sign that your image selection isn't as strong as it could be. 

Excessive use of graphic overlays, or a hectic background can be distracting.

If things are getting cluttered, take the minimalist approach to image composition. ​​Look for a photo that conveys the same basic concept, but with paired-back imagery that’s simple and direct. Think of your image as the equivalent of a bold statement rather than a novella.

Images help website users to gain an immediate understanding of context, tone and content, and entice them to click through. Improve the quality of your visuals, and you'll see an increase in CTR.

Make sure you have permission to use the image

This is a basic rule, but an important one. Just because you are able to source an image, doesn't mean you have the right to take and share it. Photographs, illustrations and other images are usually protected by copyright as artistic works. You require the permission from the copyright owner(s) to use an image.

To an extent, choosing images is a matter of personal taste. But you can attract more business using great visuals. Revisit your buyer personas and consider their tastes and interests. And trust in the persuasive power of images that are authentic, clear and complimentary to your brand.

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Published by Jeremy Knight August 29, 2019
Jeremy Knight