Okay, so you’ve decided to redesign your website. You’ve organized your information flow, and you’ve written some great content to fill those inside pages. The only thing missing now are the images that will make your website… wait for it… POP! Here are our 7 tips for selecting great royalty free images.

Unless you have unlimited budget, paying a photographer to shoot everything in your universe may not be feasible. One idea is to seek out a friend that has a decent DSLR camera and knows how to use it. You might be able to barter with them for their services. OR You might be lucky enough to connect with a photographer who is just starting out and is willing to shoot for free and use your images in their portfolio.

But if you’re like many business owners, you need an inexpensive source of images that help tell your story. That’s where royalty free sites like iStock, Fotolia, 123RF or others come into play.

So, if  you can’t afford a photographer, here our 7 tips for selecting great royalty free images for your website.


#1: Take your time

Don’t rush when you’re in search mode. Consider that one of your competitors might be in a hurry and will likely grab the first image that ‘almost’ works. Slow down and consider the strengths and weaknesses of each image. Try starting at the last page of search results and move in reverse. We often find that by taking an extra 5 or 10 minutes, we are able to uncover less utilized images that help our website stand apart from the competitors.

#2: Experiment with non-literal images

The best websites include images that convey feelings as well as specifics. For example, say that blurry image of the warehouse space that represents your business, includes a blue forklift when in reality your company forklift is orange. Relax, website users will not write you off. They aren’t looking at that blue forklift. They are deciding (usually subconsciously) if your company might be right for them. Non-literal images can work well as background images that use parallax (that subtle movement of an image behind large bold text on the page) and can be softened or affected in different ways that will support your message.

nonliteral_background800x400This isn’t product inventory; it’s a point of reference for your ideal clients.

#3: Think About Colour

Do the colours in the image work with your overall site theme. Think ‘cool’ colours and ‘warm’ colours and base your decision on the bigger design picture.

#4: Choose images based on your ideal client

Usually, one of the goals of your website is to attract new clients. To do that, you need to get into the head space of your prospects. So, for example, if you’re selling insurance, you need to understand the reasons behind your clients buying decisions. It’s not because they want to spend money on insurance every month. It’s because they want the benefits that come with having insurance. Less stress, the promise of quality family time, and happiness are what you are actually selling. So, look for images of couples or families that display the benefits of the product or service you offer.

#5: Choose average looking people

That woman with the perfect (photoshopped) skin, amazing hair and eyes might be doctor. But if you click ‘more shots with this model’ or whatever term your image site uses, you’ll discover that she is also a lawyer and a dental assistant. Talented? Yes. Gorgeous? Yup. Realistic? Nope. In this case, settling for average is better!

#6: Choose images that represent your brand

If you don’t wear a suit to work (or cuff links) and you don’t do deals with guys in suits, don’t bother downloading “suit wearing handshake guy”. Change up the search terms and keep digging for images that relate the relaxed vibe that surrounds your business. And remember, images of people are not stand ins for you and your staff. Those people on your website should represent clients. Happy clients that had their problems solved by you.

Do NOT download this image. Don’t do it!

#7: download the high-res version

When it’s time to download, don’t always pick the smallest (least expensive) version. Your homepage main image may need to be 1800 pixels wide BUT if you want to include that image in a brochure, you need more pixels for it to print cleanly.

Here’s how the math works: an 1800 pixel image will display at full screen on most monitors and print at 300dpi (dots per inch) or 6 inches wide – Not big enough for an 8.5 x 11 PDF sell sheet.

You probably don’t need every image to be high res, but make sure your brand building images are of the highest quality and stored safely for future use.