Using stock photo sites
A growing number of sites offer access to libraries of stock graphics, typically for a fixed fee per image or set of images.
Recommended and free stock photo sites
Among the most popular stock image sites are Shutterstock, iStock and Dreamstime. They offer royalty-free images, which means there’s only a once-off cost per image, rather than a fee for each time you use the image.
A number of free stock photo sites, such as Stocksnap, Freepik or Pexels, are available, and many offer photos of reasonable quality. They might not have the range of photos available on the bigger stock photo sites, but are worth investigating – especially if you need only the odd image.
Advantages of stock photo sites
Stock photo sites are popular primarily for the wide range of photos they offer. If it’s fairly generic images you need, you’re bound to find what you’re looking for – usually at a reasonable price.
Most stock image sites also have the option of downloading on-demand, meaning you don’t have to get locked into a monthly subscription. If you do need a large number of stock images every month, monthly subscriptions tend to be good value for money.
Disadvantages of stock photo sites
If you’re looking for a very specific subject or composition, you might struggle to find it. For example, stock image sites might have plenty of photographs of pot plants but none in a red pot – which might be exactly what you’re looking for.
Another issue is that stock photos tend to be overused. You might find the perfect photo for your front page only to discover that it has already been used multiple times on other sites. This is a dead giveaway to your clients that the photo doesn’t relate directly to your business, and can come across as disingenuous.
Stock images aren’t taken or used just for business purposes. If you do go this route, try to avoid images that might be considered corny, silly or unprofessional.
Using a professional photographer
The preferred method of sourcing photos is to use a professional photographer, but there are both pros and cons to consider.
Advantages of using a professional photographer
The main benefit of hiring a professional photographer is being able to dictate exactly what you want in terms of style, composition and subject matter.
Also, a professional photographer will generally provide multiple shots from a number of angles, so you won’t have to use the same photo over and over for marketing purposes.
Give website visitors an accurate impression of your business
With this option, you can get high-quality photos of your staff and their day-to-day interactions, and of your business premises. These will give website visitors an accurate impression of your business – one that isn’t at odds with what your customers actually experience (an issue that can lead to dissatisfaction and negative reviews).
Get images of the best quality
The photos you receive should be of the best quality, making them suitable for a wide range of uses, including large format print materials such as billboards.
A caveat – make sure a photographer doesn’t send you only lower-quality images that have been compressed to make it easier to transfer them via the internet. Get the original, high-resolution images too.
Disadvantages of using a professional photographer
Of course, the major downside of hiring a professional is the expense. If you want good quality photos, you’ll have to shell out a few thousand. Shoots can also be lengthy and disruptive, potentially eating into your day and affecting productivity.
Taking your own photos
It’s possible to take your own photos, especially if you have some know-how and own a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera. Even with a decent smartphone camera, you can take usable photos.
Tips for taking good photos
Higher-end smartphones tend to have pretty good cameras. Especially with the addition of an external lens, a phone can act as a substitute for a professional camera in a pinch.
Proper lighting for photos
It’s a good idea to avoid using the on-board flash. Rather takes photos in good natural light whenever possible. Indoors, positioning subjects opposite a big window can yield excellent results. Outdoors, lighting tends to be ideal in the early morning and evening, when there’s less glare.
Remember to face away from the sun or other light source – you want the light to hit what you’re photographing, rather than looking into it.
Getting the focus and zoom right
Try to use a tripod if possible, and tap on the screen to tell the camera where you’d like the focus to be.
Another good practice is not to zoom in on the subject. Rather crop the photo afterwards if you need to. This helps retain image quality.
You can also download a number of apps for editing your photos after you take them, improving the colours, contrast and even adding subtle filters.