When you’re working on your content marketing or require images for your website, or anything else, you’ll probably think of using stock images since they come with obvious benefits.
They are images that anybody may license or buy for creative use instead of hiring a photographer or investing in a professional camera. You may easily search an extensive library of full-color photographs for a specific subject and use them.
However, stock photos have a reputation of being inauthentic and can reduce the quality of the material if utilized wrongly.
In this post, we will provide you with some basic rules for using stock photos without hurting your reputation.
But until then, let’s find out how you can add images to your WordPress website.
How to add images to a WordPress page or post
I would always start by uploading images to the Media Library. From The WordPress Dashboard, head over to Media -> Add New. Next, you can simply upload your images. I recommend you give relevant names to your images, so that you can browse them later with ease.
If you go to Media -> Library you will be able to see all your images, and sort them out by date, or look for them by name.
Now, let’s add an image to a post.
Head over to Posts, and hover over a title. You’ll notice a tiny menu shown below the title. Select “Edit” to enter the post. The same goes for pages.
When inside the post, locate any “+” sign. When you click on it you’ll notice a block inserter. Search for the image block.
Next, you’ll be able to :
- upload an image (if you haven’t uploaded it straight in the Media Library),
- choose an image from the Media Library,
- add an image via URL.
Because I have previously added the image in the Media Library, I will choose the Media Library option. Click on the desired image, then hit “Select”.
And you’re done. You have an image.
When you select your image from the canvas, you’ll be seeing some basic edit options in a panel on the right. If you’re using a WordPress page builder, like Kubio, or Colibri, you will be noticing even more customization options.
Now, adding images (stock or original) to a WordPress page or post is easy peasy. Deciding on those images is not so easy. Stock photos can offer a way out, but there are some things you should pay attention to. And we’re going to talk about this right away.
1. Check to see if your stock photos have been used too many times
Stock images can appear everywhere. Since they can be all over the place, your site might lose its uniqueness in the eyes of readers.
So, to avoid that, use stock photos that have not been used by other sites too many times. You need to figure out how many other websites use the same stock picture so you can make an informed decision about whether or not to use it. You may use an online tool like TinEye to determine this frequency.
Or you can conduct a search using Google Images:
You’ll have to determine the frequency of use of a stock image that’s acceptable to you. In my case, I’d say I’d use a picture that’s been used three or four times in other sites but not more than that.
2. Use the same photo style across pages and channels
There are many stock photos you can use. You can use gifs, still photos, infographics, animation, among others.
However, make sure that the stock photos you use have the same style that reflects your brand personality.
So, if you’re a serious website that caters to a B2B audience, for instance, don’t use a fun gif on your article. Your readers won’t take you seriously that way. If you’re a website looking to be seen as an authority in a specific niche, it’s best to use still photos that exude seriousness, not memes that are more, well, fun.
The idea is to remain consistent with your branding. You want your readers to associate you with the same image style in much the same manner you want them to associate you with a specific writing style.
Here’s an example from the ColibriWP blog. For consistency, a purple gradient appears at the top of each blog post picture (the images used here aren’t stock images, but I mention this to illustrate a point).
So, when people see that purple in images, they can conclude they’re images from ColibriWP.
Also, on the ConvertSquad blog the images used have 3D-like elements on flat backgrounds, in order to be consistent.
You must use the same image style not just on your website but also on other platforms such as your newsletter and social media.
To prevent any abrupt change in image styles that can destroy your branding, use photos from one photographer with the same photography style. Ensure each image also has the same text typeface for a consistent branding experience.
3. Give stock photos a personal touch
As a business, you will struggle to stand out if you keep using stock images without customizing them to reflect your brand.
But how do you personalize stock images?
The good news is, there are tools such as Canva, Pixlr X, Adobe Spark, Photoshop, and Luminar you can use.
You can change the background’s color to a color that suits yours. Or, if you’re a brand with a fun personality, you can convert them into memes. Hubspot gives an example of how to personalize stock images.
See how the dull stock image suddenly reflects Hubspot’s fun personality?
You may also resize, rearrange, and add elements or text to the photo.
4. Use SEO-friendly stock photos
Since Google considers user experience an SEO ranking factor, showing a stock photo is likely to be seen as a poor user experience on a brand’s part. That means Google may demote pages, including stock images in search results.
So, if you’re using stock images, you need to optimize them for SEO first.
Here are three essential steps to take.
Resize your photos: Page speed is a growing SEO factor for Google, and big photographs slow down your website significantly, causing a poor user experience. Since mobile search is on the rise, optimizing images is even more crucial for your website. For most smartphones, the optimal image resolution is 640 by 320 pixels. We’ll look at resizing photos in more detail later.
Rename your images: Image titles aid Google in determining what the image is about and impact SEO. So, include keywords on the image name. It’s best to choose one focus keyword and one or two supporting keywords for each page or blog post on your site.
Write SEO-friendly alt text: Image alt text is the description attached with each image on your website. Search engines use it to understand the photograph in case of any technical issues, such as slow connections. You should describe the image’s content directly in the alt text.
Data shows that articles with images receive 94% more overall views than articles without images. Don’t overdo it, though. Strike a balance between good user experience and the need to convey a message visually.
5. It should be part of your overall visual plan
Don’t use stock images just because you want to. Like original pictures, stock images should serve a purpose on your site. Don’t use stock images merely as fillers.
The best way to explain this is to give you an example.
Shotkit, for instance, publishes expert reviews of photography gear on its website. So, it uses original pictures of the gear being reviewed in each article. The idea is for those reading the review to visualize what the writer is talking about.
The types of pictures used are also aligned with this goal.
Notice that the images used are still photos, not memes or animation that might deflect the reader’s attention from each gear detail.
So, before using stock images, determine your goal for your content first. Your images should be part of your overall visual plan that ultimately gets your audience to take your desired action.
Resources for You to Use
Now that you know the best practices for using stock images on your site let’s take a look at some tools you can use and websites you can access to create your content using these types of images.
Websites for stock images
There are plenty of stock photos websites out there. Some companies charge you a fee to use their pictures. Here are some of those sites:
Twenty20/Envato elements: Twenty20 and Envato Elements have come together to create a one-stock picture platform. For unlimited stock photos, you pay $200 per year. They make an effort to make their photographs look realistic and lifelike.
IStock: It has an extensive library. It features well-designed illustrations and vectors, but the photographs have a stock feel. It ranges in price from $348 to $1176 each year.
Shutterstock: This is pricey, but they offer about everything you’re seeking. Shutterstock is the ideal place to go if you’re looking for anything specific. If you have a limited budget, you can visit the websites that offer free stock photos instead. There are many of these, but a few stand out because of their extensive libraries and their ease of navigation. Here’s a list:
Pixabay: There are over 2.4 million high-quality stock photos, illustrations, vectors, videos, and music sound effects available on Pixabay. Pixabay’s photographs and footage are all licensed under Creative Commons CC0, which means they are free for commercial usage. There is no need for attribution.
Pexels: They have photographs and videos. The best thing, though, is that you can see the top photographer on the leaderboard page. The material used also doesn’t require any attribution.
Unsplash: It also includes an extensive photo library but has no video, vectors, or drawings. All photographs are under the Unsplash Creative Commons license. Unsplash also allows you to hire and contact a photographer on their platform.
Keep in mind that some other free stock photo sources will demand attribution. You must carefully understand a platform’s conditions before using its pictures.
Tools to resize images
Most pictures and stock images are large, and resizing them is required whether you plan to use them on your site, on social media, in emails, or for SEO purposes. It is critical to strike the correct balance between image quality and photo size. Also, if you want to keep your images appearing professional, you should never stretch them.
You can use tools to resize your images. Here’s a list of the top three image resizing tools available online:
Reduced Images: It’s a simple online tool that lets you perform compression and size reduction, as well as save the generated photos in JPG, PNG, GIF, or BMP formats.
Fotor.com: This is an advanced free tool. It allows you to resize, improve, and change photographs as desired. However, you may easily resize your photos without losing quality.
Image resizer: Users love the ease of use of this tool. The tool allows you to maintain each image’s finest quality.
It’s best to keep your stock images no larger than 1200 pixels or less than 250 kilobytes in total file size. Remember, you need to make your photos look good across all devices.
On your WordPress website, you can also go with a plugin that optimizes images and more, like Smush.
Stock photos can be perceived as inauthentic, but they’re not as bad as you think. You can still do things to ensure your readers appreciate them and they serve their purpose. You learned some tips from this article.
Make sure they’re not used as frequently, use consistent image styles across site pages and channels, give them a personal touch, and use SEO-optimized pictures. Finally, make sure all the stock images you use are part of your overall visual marketing plan.
Follow these strategies, and your stock images will yield the best results for you and your business.
Mark Condon is the founder of Shotkit, the go-to website for anything related to photography. If Mark isn't busy shooting weddings, you'll find him writing reviews about the latest camera gear for the site himself.