People searching the internet are getting smarter and faster at judging company websites. So what happens when one of these smart folks lands on a site with a gigantic, fake stock photo plastered across the homepage? New studies are showing there is no connection or relationship being built, resulting in a tendency to leave the site. A photo should add value to your site, not detract from it.

Choosing a stock photo to make your site look pretty can often be the wrong move. Original photos can give people a connection to your website and the services and products you offer. When customers see actual photos of you or your employees, you have a better chance of making them feel like they are interacting with real people.

1. Studies prove “real” photos are better

Studies have proven that real photos have a better chance of engaging your visitors. Visual Website Optimizer’s article “Enough of Stock Photos” shows that real or relevant images can improve website conversions. Another test by Marketing Experiments Blog gave similar results with better conversions for business. Jakob Nielson also did a study on the use of real vs. stock photos, concluding that people were ignoring stock photography.

2. Your competitors might use the same stock image

Boardroom Stock Photography

Another drawback from using stock photography is your competition. Once you have picked that “perfect” stock photo for your site, you then have to check out to see who “else” has picked the same photo. The worst case scenario is that a competitor has chosen the same one, which may confuse potential customers who associate that image with a different business. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, look around at your competition and take note of the images they are using. Nobody can copy you if your photos are original.

3. Real photos support your marketing strategy

A great photo can be the key to good visual optimization and marketing online. MDG Advertising developed an infographic that illustrates the importance of photos for a company’s brand and business. If photos are proven time and again to help your marketing and visual optimization, then it’s no secret using real photos that engage your customer will only improve on those statistics.

4. Taking your own photos is vital

Getting a real photographer can get expensive, but in the end, will most likely be worth it. They know more about lighting, composition & how to get the most out of the subject being photographed. These are the qualities that make a professional photographer important.

Oakdale Collision Paint Job 2

Another option if available is where you might get “that friend with a good camera” who does weddings on the side or even a student of photography giving away deals. The fact is, cameras are getting better and better, and you could get away with taking your own photos with some good lighting and a tripod. Even new camera phones are taking great photos which would work just fine for small clean employee images or product on your site.

In the end, stock photography will never be able to truly represent you, your services and products the way you want them to, especially when you’re trying to get that relationship built with your new visitor and potential customer.

As a parting note, here’s a great tongue-in-cheek piece about stock photography with Vince Vaughn to promote his new film. While the scenes in the photos look fake, he is real….and that builds the connection with his fans.

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2015 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and relevance.

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