Should You Use Stock Photos, AI or Real Images for Your Website?

Finding the right images for your website can completely change its aesthetic. The best pictures draw users in and make them want to stay on your site longer, increasing the probability of converting them into customers. Your visuals can also show your brand’s personality and create consistency.

With the rising popularity of AI art and dialogue about ethics, determining what type of visuals are best for your needs takes some thought. Should you use stock photos, AI art or real images for your website? Each option has pros and cons to consider. 

Table of Contents

Stock Photos

While stock photos have a few limitations, they are an excellent option if you’re on a budget. New business owners may lack the funds to hire a professional photographer or artist to create unique visuals. 

Those starting on a shoestring budget can use free stock photo sites. Others may find budget-friendly repositories like Demand Photo, iStock and Getty. Utilizing stock images has positives and negatives.

Pros of Stock Imagery

  • Huge time saver as they are on-demand
  • Inexpensive when you buy a credit package through various providers
  • Professional quality images
  • Massive collection of potential photos

Cons of Stock Imagery

  • Another brand could use the same image
  • Not as personalized as custom photos 
  • Limited to only what is available in the library
  • Hidden expenses for extended licenses

Stock photos may be available through software you already use, such as Canva Pro. You can get them immediately rather than waiting for a photographer to set up a photo shoot and edit images. 

AI Art

The AI image generation market is growing rapidly. Generative AI encompasses text, video and art and is worth $66.62 billion. Experts predict it will reach $206.95 billion by 2030. Many business owners are embracing AI as part of their content creation process. Utilizing AI art has pluses and minuses. 

Pros of AI-Generated Art

  • Can create an image of anything, even the impossible
  • Allows artists to keep a standard look to all images on a site by utilizing similar style commands
  • Is less expensive than hiring an artist
  • Removes human error

Cons of AI-Generated Art

  • Ethical concerns with AI platforms gaining inspiration from human artists’ work without their permission
  • Weird results, such as people with an extra arm
  • Some people are very against AI and may view your brand differently if you use it
  • Computers lack human emotions and have a hard time conveying them in images
  • Legal concerns, as courts have said people cannot copyright AI-generated art

AI image tools are changing how businesses create content. Around 87% of companies now use AI visuals. If you tap into the power of computer-created art, you’ll have more options than utilizing stock photos alone. Computers are becoming more adept at generating unique work for companies. 

Real Images

A third option for securing visuals for your website is commissioning authentic images. A small business might hire a local photographer to take snapshots of its top-selling product and use them on its website as part of the product description. Personalized photos are a must if you sell a physical product. 

Pros of Taking Real Pictures for Your Site

  • Beautiful images no one else has
  • Personalized to your business’s personality
  • You own all rights so no one can copy you without your permission
  • Unique photos help build trust with site visitors
  • Avoids the ethical issues customers might bring up surrounding AI

Cons of Taking Real Pictures for Your Site

  • More expensive
  • Takes time to organize a photo shoot and edit images
  • Hard to maintain consistency over time
  • Photographers have different skill levels

Using custom images can add an element of trust to your site, showing your brand personality. The key is to have a style and plan before hiring a photographer. You create consistency and uniqueness if all images representing your company are similar. 

Optimising Your Images

Crisp images sometimes create large files. However, bulky photos can slow load times and cause users to bounce away from the site. Regardless of which option you choose between stock imagery, AI-generated art or your own pictures, optimization becomes equally crucial to successfully integrate them into your designs. 

Some image minimizers can reduce files by as much as 70%, making them load faster. You can also store pictures on a content delivery network to increase page speeds. Optimization is about crunching the size without sacrificing quality. 

Getting the kilobyte and megabyte numbers down requires several steps.

  • Choose the correct file type for your site. For example, a GIF is often more significant than a JPG file. A GIF is 2.4 times the size of a JPG but still lower quality. However, you may need a GIF for a transparent background or moving parts.
  • Consider the photo’s dimensions and where you’ll use it. Smaller measurements can further reduce the file’s bulkiness.
  • Know when to use lossy and lossless compression. Lossy removes some data, and lossless removes only unneeded components. 

You’ll find numerous compression programs to help reduce file sizes. Choose those that are most effortless for you to use. You might go through a website compression wizard and save the reduced file. If your site is on a content management system such as WordPress, you can install a plugin like Smush to do the work for you instantly.

Optimizing images can reduce web hosting costs, as you’ll need less storage space to keep the same number of smaller files. Your page will load faster, lowering your bounce rates. You’ll also have the pictures for social media platforms, where file size determines how quickly you can upload the ad or post. 

Keeping a higher resolution copy of original images for print advertisements is a good idea when you reduce the file size. You’ll need at least 300 dpi photos if you place an ad in a magazine. Optimization works great online, but most businesses have at least some omnichannel elements. 

Consider All Three Types

Some business owners use a mix of stock images, real photos and AI art to achieve the perfect look for their sites. It isn’t best to use one particular type or another. Instead, aim for consistency and tone. Once you determine your website’s style, pulling the best images for your business from various sources becomes easier. Regardless of how you source visuals, adding them engages users and improves their experience.

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Article written by Eleanor
Article written by Eleanor

Eleanor Hecks is the managing editor at Designerly. Connect with her about digital marketing, UX and/or tea on LinkedIn.

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