With content marketing all the rage these days, the value of written text gets a lot of attention, but images are at least as important to a visitor’s experience of a website.
In fact, images are one of your most valuable tools for getting better results from your written content. Visitors are 80% more likely to read content if it’s paired with an image and 64% more likely to remember what they read.
In other words, your website needs images.
The primary question that remains is: where should you get them?
Stock Photography vs. Original Photography
Stock photography is the most obvious option to consider. It’s affordable and easy. When you need an image that will simply suffice, finding a stock image is the path of least resistance.
There’s a place for easy options in life, but the images you use on your business website isn’t it. Stock photography comes with certain issues and risks.
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Stock photographs can be bought by anyone.
In most cases, when you buy a stock photograph, you don’t become its outright owner. You’re only buying the rights to use a photograph that hundreds or thousands of other individuals and businesses could buy as well.
That means there’s a decent chance that your customers will have seen your stock photograph before, possibly on a competitor’s website – or worse, on a scammer’s website. If a photo on your website inspires a mental association with a business a visitor has had a bad experience with, those associations will influence how they view your brand. Obviously, that’s bad.
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Stock photography simply feels inauthentic.
Stock photography trades on the themes and clichés everyone’s seen before. Have you ever seen a photo of a smiling person with a headset? Even if you don’t particularly remember it, you’ve probably seen dozens of variations on this picture. It’s the go-to stock photograph subject many companies use to demonstrate the concept of customer service.
The fact that you’ve seen it so many times makes it boring and easy to ignore. By comparison, original photographs have personality.
Original photography works better.
Several companies have put this to the test. Marketing Experiments found that customers converted 35% more when faced with an original photo than they did with a stock photo. Eye tracking studies have shown that people tend to ignore stock photos, but do pay attention to photos of real people. And one moving company in New York City found that their original photos converted at rates around 45% higher than a stock photo.
It’s been tested again and again with the same results. People respond better to images that feel authentic.
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How to Create Original Photos
You have two main options when it comes to creating original photos for your business website:
- Hire a professional
- Take them yourself
Even photos you take yourself with affordable cameras (or your phone) are often an improvement over stock photos, but if you want photos that are high quality, then hiring a professional is probably worth it.
Do some searches to find professional photographers working in your area and ask around amongst friends, family, and other business owners to see if anyone has recommendations. Before hiring a professional photographer, take some time to look over their portfolio and confirm you like their work and that they seem like a good fit for your needs.
If the quotes you get from local professional photographers are outside of your budget, check and see if there’s a photography program in any of the colleges in your area. A student photographer can do the job at lower rates and will likely be eager to please in return for future referrals and a sample for their portfolio.
It’s not as easy as buying a stock photograph, but the time and costs involved in creating original photographs for your business website is worth it. You have the chance to show your visitors some real personality and connect with them in a way that no generic image of a woman wearing a headset ever will.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.