Stock photography doesn’t have to be bad

Photography, done right, can add amazing visual appeal to your electric cooperative, broadband provider or utility website. While we often recommend you hire a professional photographer to get imagery of your locations, staff, equipment, and service area, we realize it’s not always feasible.

When original imagery isn’t available, feasible, or isn’t enough, stock photography can be a great solution for your utility website.

Stock photography can also complement your existing original images when you carefully mix them together. We frequently make use of stock photography on Powerful websites when original imagery isn’t available.

When I thought of stock photography in the past, I got a bad taste in my mouth. Images of buttoned up office workers huddled around a computer, sporting forced smiles, instantly came to mind.

But modern stock photography is and can be so much more. Even those tropey office workers look a whole lot better than they used to!

Here I’ve shared the secrets to get the most out of stock photos on your utility website.

Reflect the diversity of your community

It’s fair to say certain demographics are overrepresented in stock photography. But you make the choices about what images to use.

Commit to understanding the demographic diversity of your community and choosing images to reflect that. This will communicate a message of inclusion and welcomeness to your member-customers.

It’s not all smiling people

There is a wide variety of other things you can get stock photos of. For example:

  • Devices like laptops and phones
  • Landscapes and nature
  • Appliances
  • Transmission and distribution lines and equipment
  • Your service territory or nearby landmarks

Where to put stock photos

Use photography in a complementary manner. Avoid the old school approach of using a small stock image flushed to the right side of your text. Instead of adding appeal, it usually looks out of place.

Try adding images to page headers instead or as featured images for news stories. Or one of my favorite approaches is to use a full width image in the middle of an article to break things up and add visual punch.

Know when generic images are okay

Don’t use images of a generic product when talking about a specific brand of product.

Do use generic images when talking generally about products. For instance, if you are speaking generally about the energy saving offered by LED lightbulbs or a rebate program related to light bulbs, it’s okay to use images of generic LED type lightbulbs.

How much does stock photography cost?

It can be more affordable than you think. Adobe Stock is $30 per month for 10 images and you can keep using all the images you licensed even after your plan ends. iStock from Getty Images offers nearly identical pricing.

Unsplash is a completely free stock image website with images sourced from volunteers worldwide. The imagery is a bit different than your standard stock photo website, tending to veer towards the artsy side.

Screenshot of Adobe Stock homepage.

Local and regional stock photography

You can get surprisingly local on the large stock websites! Try searching for your city or region on Adobe Stock or iStock and you may be shocked by the number of results you get.

Do not use copyrighted images without a license

Always make sure you have a license to use images on your website!

If you perform a Google image search and look for images you might assume that you can use any image you see in the grid of results.

Wrong! Each image is likely copyrighted (even if you do not see a copyright notice) and you are not allowed to use it without first licensing it. Even then, not all images you find may not even be available to license.

That’s why it’s best to start with legitimate stock photography websites such as Adobe Stock, iStock, and Unsplash.