When should I choose my photos? Should I create my design, then choose images? or should I have a photo shoot first? Chicken, egg? Right? Which comes first? Are stock images okay to use? In this post, I answer some frequently asked questions about sourcing images for your website.

TIP: Apply these same tactics to the work you do with your clients.

Don’t miss the opportunity to gain trust by aligning your imagery with your message.

Using the right photo will help amplify your message, increase your credibility, and evoke the emotion you want in your potential customer. Photography plays an important supporting role.

Q: How do I choose images for my website?

  • Messaging – consider what your page (homepage, about page, etc) has to say before you think about what it should look like. Ask yourself: What is the one thing you want your user to understand? What is the big takeaway for this page?
  • Feeling – consider what you want your user to feel on first impression. What should they feel when they walk into this online “space”? Motivation? Peace? Excitement? Shocked?
  • Photography – consider how the imagery for this page will increase the understanding of the message and amplify the feeling. Should it be a literal image? Or implied feeling or message? Or a graphic? Will you need to overlay text?
  • Design – consider how the structure and elements on this page will feed information to your customer. What should they see first? What should they see next? What should they really not miss?


Q: Is it okay to use stock photography?

YES. Image libraries have improved a LOT over the last few years. More and more of them are adding candid and conceptual images. I recommend using stock photography if you don’t have the budget for a custom shoot, if you are brand new to your business, or if your topic is too complex for your own photo shoot.

Give yourself adequate time to look for the right image. Establish search criteria using the answers asked by the questions above. Create a Pinterest board for keeping track of images you like.

Here are some of my favorite stock photography sites:

Personally, I avoid any stock imagery that’s too posed and prefer to search based on feelings, concepts and implied messages. Always come back to your (or your client’s) brand’s personality – do the images you choose align with the words chosen for that business?


Q: Is it better to invest in custom photography?

Sometimes, not always. If you are integral to your brand, then custom photography may be a wise investment. No one else can use your images. It’s easier to create a cohesive feel when your photography flows from one intentionally planned photo shoot.

Custom photography can give your audience an opportunity to get to know you beyond a headshot. It adds a personal touch – and should amplify your business personality as well as your message. A good photographer can also give you plenty of branded images to use in your social media campaigns.

At the very least, invest in a good quality branded headshot. Your potential clients will judge your personal abilities and evaluate your trustworthiness based on the quality of your headshot. They can’t help it – it’s human nature. Don’t use a snapshot or selfie (just don’t). By branded I mean if you have a casual business style or business personality, don’t wear a suit. Match the style of your photo to the personality of your business.

Q: How do I make multiple sources of photography feel cohesive?

If you are curating images from multiple sources, use any of the following design techniques to create a cohesive feel on your site.

Overlay with color


Go for black and white


Add filter effects


Q: What kind of photography should I plan for on my website?

Depending on your content and branding, you may need any or all of the following:

  • Homepage anchor image or image related to your key message
  • Large images to anchor content pages
  • Images embedded within content areas
  • Headshot and/or team photos
  • Product photos
  • Service / offering photos
  • Opt-in photos / graphics
  • Testimonial images
  • Featured images attached to posts / pages
The bottom line? Photography will feel like an afterthought when it doesn’t amplify a strong message. It’s an element that can catapult you into the wow category when chosen wisely. How does your current website photography measure up?
Can you get a good result with stock photography or should you invest in a photoshoot? Using the right photo will help clarify your message, increase your credibility, and create the reaction you want in your potential customer. Knowing where to search and what to look for is half the battle. I answer common questions about where to find the best images in this blog post. Get your FREE Website Content Planner here.
How to know when to use stock photography (or invest in a custom photoshoot) for freelance design projects.












Author: Christine Thatcher

Christine Thatcher is the founder of Christine Marie Studio, a boutique design agency dedicated to helping visionary entrepreneurs infuse their personalities into profitable virtual platforms. She combines 27 years of design experience to guide her clients through the web design process. Also the creator of Designing to Delight, a brand dedicated to teaching designers how to build collaborative client relationships so they can charge more for their work.