Website Design, Entrepreneur

5 Ways to Successfully use Stock Photography on Your Website

Many of my website design clients aren't photographers, but they know they need great photos to make their website design pop. The trick isn't finding stock photography (it's all over the internet), but finding the right stock images and making them work for your website.

Many of my website design clients aren't photographers, but they know they need great photos to make their website design pop. The trick isn't finding stock photography (it's all over the internet), but finding the right stock images and making them work for your website.  Here’s the thing: if you use the wrong images on your website, you’re going to run into problems.  |  Think Creative Collective

Here’s the thing: if you use the wrong images on your website, you’re going to run into problems like:

  • Seeing the images you chose pop up everywhere.
  • Having a website that doesn’t fit your brand.
  • Spending money on something that you won’t use long-term.
  • Getting into legal trouble because you didn’t follow the rules.

And none of those things are what you want to deal with. After all, you’re just trying to grow your business, create amazing content, and serve your clients.

Of course, you could invest in some great custom stock photos, but if you aren’t at that point yet – for whatever reason – then stock photography is a great way to create a beautiful online presence that fits your brand and business.

Here are five ways to SUCCESSFULLY use stock photography on your website:

1. Start with the Design

Always start by designing your website before investing in any kind of images. Think of it this way: your website is the house you’re building and the images are the décor inside – they make a big difference, but they aren’t going to determine what your website looks like.

Whether you’re DIY-ing your website or working with a designer and developer, let the design dictate everything else. This will help you in your search for images because you’ll know exactly what to look for.

Once you’ve worked on your  design, you’ll know things like:

  • Image size
  • Image orientation
  • Types of images

Once you have the design in place, it’s much easier to narrow down your search and find the right images for your website. Maybe the flat lays you love on Instagram aren’t right for your header because they won’t convey what you need them to. It’s better to know that before you’ve spent any money.

You also want to consider which images will be overlaid with text for graphics and which will stand alone to add personality.

2. Choose the Right Photos

Choose stock photos that fit your brand colors and style.

Instead of choosing images that look great, but don’t fit your brand, start your search with your brand in mind. Then, even if you find other beautiful options, you won’t be tempted to spend your hard earned money on something that won’t work for your business.

Even if you’re using a stock library, don’t try to use every image available. They may be beautiful, but if they aren’t on-brand, you’re going to confuse your audience and make your website less inviting and streamlined.

And now for the not-so-fun legal stuff:

Make sure to double (and triple) check the usage rights to the images you’re buying. You want to make sure that you can use them on your website to promote your services, and you need to know how you need to give credit to the photographer.

You will also need to know what types of edits you can make to the images you choose (such as cropping, adding overlays, adding your own products, or changing or removing items) and where you can use them (social media, website, opt-ins, webinar slides, etc.).

Each photographer and website will have different guidelines and restrictions, so make sure you’re familiar with them so you won’t run into legal problems in the future. (Just a tip: keep the receipt after you download your new image so you have it for future reference.)

If you’re working with a designer to find these images, make sure that the correct person purchases them. If your designer purchases your image, they may or may not be allowed to transfer ownership to you. If you want to own the rights to use an image in more ways than just on your website, you may need to purchase it yourself so that you have that ability.

3. Customize Your Images

You can make even stock photography unique through overlays, added text, and cropping (as long as you’re following the rules).

Here are some fun ways to add interest to your images and make them stand out:

  • Add an overlay in a brand color.
  • Add text to create fun graphics or pinnable images.
  • Crop your image in a variety of ways to get multiple uses out of it.
  • Add your own products to the image to show off your work.

By using these techniques with your stock photographs, you can create images that people will recognize as yours without you having to take the photos yourself. This is also a great way to get the most out of the images you’re investing in so you can buy less, but still have just as much flexibility.

4. Get Some SEO Going

Prep your images for great SEO so that they can help people find you online.

Usually, stock images will have names that reflect the company or photographer they are from. After you purchase and download an image, be sure to rename it to something SEO friendly before adding it to your website (because having an image name that references where you got the image won't help your business).

You can also add some SEO juice by adding keywords and keyword phrases on the back-end of your website and by adding captions or alt titles. This works differently on each website platform, but you should be able to find tutorials to guide you. (In Squarespace, you can add a caption to your photo and then hide it to get the SEO without having a caption below your image.)

5. Add in Some of Your Own Images

By mixing stock photography with your own images, you can create a unique look that no one can copy.

Even if you’re a photographer or have great images from past projects, you can use stock photography to spice up your image library and get some great on-brand images that you don’t have to take yourself.

Stock images are really versatile and you can use them in a lot of places on your website:

  • Banner images.
  • Backgrounds for sections you want to highlight (in Squarespace, you can do this through creating Index Pages).
  • Blog graphics.
  • Links to other pages on your website.
  • In your content library or shop to show off your work.
  • On social media to tie everything together.

And if you aren’t a photographer, but you can’t invest in a full brand photoshoot yet, stock images are a great way to round out your visuals and supplement those images that you do have. This is especially helpful if you want to include more human elements on your website (such as hands or a body), but don’t have images of yourself that will work. Of course, you should still have a professional, branded headshot to use on your website and across social media so people know who you are.

My Favorite Places to Find Stock Photography

There are a lot of great stock photography resources online, both free and paid. Each site works differently, but if you take the time to look through what’s available, you can find something that will work for your budget and your brand.

For stock image libraries:

For one versatile image or a small collection:

For free images:

If you decide to use a website like Shutterstock, be sure to check the usage rights for each image, as they can vary based on the photographer and image type.

And there you have it! I hope you now have a better idea of how to choose and use stock photography on your website to create a beautiful online presence that supports your growing business.

We love to create our own branded photos too! 

Branding, Website Design

New Brand + Website Design for Summit Grove Community of Christ

While I have showcased many of my designs on the blog, I have never shared a website launch with you. Today marks a pretty exciting day and I am so glad you get to be a part of it. 

I believe in a collaborative design process where we work together to develop a strategy and concept that is the perfect fit for your business or organization. I have walked you through this in a 3 part series, but never revealed final designs that would come out of this process. If you missed that series, I suggest starting here:

My Design Process: Part 1 – Lattes & Laughter
My Design Process: Part 2 – Think Creative
My Design Process: Part 3 – Design Works

I am giving you a little behind the scenes look at the creative process that took place in my latest design project for Summit Grove Community of Christ. The cheerful color palette, warm photographs and inviting tone are a true reflection of the congregation that is a few short miles from my home here in Independence, MO. 

New Brand + Website Design for Summit Grove Community of Christ  |  Think Creative

1. Creative Brief & Inspiration Mood Board

I start every project with a Creative Brief to not only clearly define the expectations of the client, but also reveal the personality, goals and unique characteristics of the brand we are about to create or improve upon.

For most design projects, I immediately move into developing an Inspiration Mood Board. Here we define the overall aesthetics and visual dictionary as a basis for making all future decisions.

In the case of Summit Grove, Marlo Brush, described the brand they sought to create as inclusive, welcoming, warm and sincere. She did a great job pulling together goals, objectives, ideal audience characteristics and background of the congregation that I personally would not have been privy to. 

It was a bit of a unique situation, as we couldn’t completely come up with something new as they are governed by a higher organization with very strict brand guidelines. Things like color and font choices were limited, however, that did not mean we couldn’t highlight the unique features of their community.

When I pulled together the inspiration board I began to develop a color scheme. I chose to keep it modern, yet traditional, light-hearted, yet inspirational. Warm yellows and a variety of blues emerged with hints of creams to keep it neutral.  The yellows evoke joy and represent hope for the church. The teal blue represents community and a coming together of ideas and multi-generations.

Summit Grove Community of Christ Inspiration Board  |  Think Creative

I wanted the images to showcase the feeling of the church when you actually meet with the parishioners. I carefully curated the photographs to represent the various stages of life a couple may go through in their time at Summit Grove, as this community is perfect for both the young, old and anywhere in between. 

2. Logo Concepts

The next step in the process uses the initially defined vision to create a variety of logo options. In this case, since the larger church controls the brand, we didn’t have any decisions on logo concepts. However, we used the queues from the aesthetics of the existing brand to continue to affect the look and feel moving forward.

3. Content Creation

If you haven’t noticed, I am a firm believer in the power of the written word. In many of my design projects I help the client develop new content providing a framework for which the design will follow. This can include anything from navigation down to every bullet point on the page. I find this to be a huge opportunity to further uncover the necessary pieces to tell the clearest story. 

4. Website Design

All the pieces and parts always seem to come together when I reveal the initial look at the new website design to the client. Many of them are shocked by this first look and are able to better understand how all the pieces we've worked together on are finally coming together. 

One of my favorite things to do, specifically for brands that are pre-existing, is show them the difference between the before and after.

What do you think?


Summit Grove Community of Christ Before Think Creative Rebrand


I am so excited about how Summit Grove Community of Christ’s Website came together. I truly believe it showcases the church's strong community and diverse congregation. 

Marlo Brush and Carmen DeHart deserve a huge round of applause for all their hard work and preparation for this project. Their attention to detail, prompt feedback and organization insured every aspect of this project is a success. I am excited to be continuing to work on further projects with them including several collateral items.

If you haven’t already, be sure to head over to their new website to see how it all came together.

I would love to help you uncover the true potential of your church, non-profit, small business or other organization. I have many design and marketing services custom tailored just for you. Find out more about how we can work together.


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