Improve Your Content by Avoiding Overused Stock Photos

An unbroken block of text is not user-friendly. Good spacing, layout, and font choice can go a long way towards making text look better. But you need more to keep the eye interested, especially when trying to present content online.

Statistics show that readers are 80 percent more likely to read your content when it’s paired with an image. Good and relevant image choices are also incredibly useful for SEO purposes, helping you boost your ranking significantly, provided they’re set up correctly. And no, stock images don’t hurt your chances of getting on Google’s great side, because if they counted as non-original content for ranking purposes, most websites wouldn’t rank.

But there are other issues with stock photos, particularly overused ones. Cliché, unfitting, or plain boring stock images might not hurt your SEO, but it can hurt your reader’s interest, and cause you to lose out on an opportunity to do something creative with the visual medium on your content.

Use Original Material Whenever You Can

This point is important, and not always an option for some companies. But if you are in the process of gathering material for video content, press releases, company publicity, and visuals for the office and team, consider making an investment in some homegrown stock photography.

Prop your own staff and location to produce some evergreen office and coworker images, or industry-specific photos to use for your own needs, time and time again. Not only does it supplant the need for a stock image budget, but you can save the time spent looking for the kind of visual content you need by making it yourself.

Create a Story with a Character

One way of conveying a deeper interest in utilizing stock photos to tell a story throughout your content is to try and purchase multiple stock photos with the same model. Most stock photography companies and studios hire stock photo models to pose for hundreds of different disjointed shots.

Sometimes, when strung together, these shots tell a humorous or nonsensical story. Consider the wild tale of the Distracted Boyfriend meme stock photo, wherein the couple eventually goes through a messy breakup, and it’s implied that the jealous girlfriend ends up together with the very woman her ex was distracted by. A surprising twist!

But by cherry-picking images that suit your needs, you can potentially make use of a single model as the “character” you’re using to illustrate an example in your content.

Be Cheeky with Your Choices

While it depends on the industry and the audience you are catering to, there’s usually no harm in taking the opportunity to be a little cheeky with your stock photo choices.

For example, instead of the typical image of two angry people on a couch, you might preface an article on family counselling with an image of a wolf gently biting their annoyed sibling.

Unconventional, interesting stock photo choices that get a light chuckle or moment of pause out of a reader can help your article or content stick in the reader’s mind for longer than usual. And that is ultimately what you want – a good first impression.

Make Sure Your Photo’s Point is Clear

We’re not trying to restrict your creative freedom – but we do want to point out that if there’s anything you should really, desperately avoid, it’s visual clutter. A picture of a bunch of things isn’t going to be doing you any favors.

The same goes for any other form of visual clutter or lack of clarity. Don’t be too busy with your image. Don’t use something far too colorful, where the message or point of the photo gets lost in the aesthetic. Unless, of course, the aesthetic is the point.

You want stock photography with a purpose that is instantly recognizable. Something where pretty much everyone at the office, when polled on what the image is supposed to show, gives the exact same answer. An apple. Paper with slipped ink. A smiling coworker. Two friends embracing. If it’s clear that multiple people are misinterpreting the image, then it may be time to pick something else.

Choose Images That Make Immediate Sense

The specific subject matter you opt for is almost irrelevant. Picture quality and composition is what really matters. A lot of clever photo choices rely on metaphor and tongue-in-cheek humor – but the key behind creating visual comedy like that is that it must be obvious. Everybody should be in on the joke!

But this lesson doesn’t just apply to cheeky images. A lot of stock photos have an unnatural air of cheesiness that doesn’t make much sense after the first glance, like people rejoicing in front of a brick wall, or the classic girl laughing with salad. There’s an entire page on the Internet dedicated to exposing stock photo cliches – and it’s a good opportunity to familiarize yourself with a few common pitfalls to avoid.

Good stock photo options are a lot like good written content. Relevance matters, and originality can go a long way.

Less is More

At the end of the day, don’t be afraid to work with very little to do a lot. You don’t need a new stock photo for every third sentence – hell, you can probably get away with one or two images per post, tops, and no more than three per webpage. You can cut it down even more if you commit to a clean, minimalist aesthetic with your web design, or incorporate other in-house visuals into your content.

Thinking about the visual experience of your pages is just as important as the quality of your written word, if not more so. People’s eyes are drawn to color and visuals, and a well-placed, comedic, and effective stock photo can do more to help an article or product stick in a reader’s mind than five overused cliches, or a thousand words.

Need help working high-quality visuals into your online content? No worries. Get in touch with us, and we’ll help you translate your brand and ideas into great visual and written content.

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SEO virtuoso, CEO @Sachs Marketing Group. Focused on being of service to business owners - helping to better position them in the eyes of their audiences.

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