The visuals on your website are important. Not only do they help tell a story and enhance your credibility, but they make an instant impression. In fact, researchers estimate the human mind can process images one thousand times faster than text. That means potential customers notice the photos you use on your web pages, at least subconsciously, before they ever process any of your actual messaging.
Understanding the power of images isn’t just about knowing which ones to use, however. It’s also about knowing where to find them. In particular, to realize you should be purchasing royalty-free images from sites like istockphoto.com instead of snatching them off of Google.
From time to time, we have clients ask us to incorporate pictures they’ve taken from the web into their websites. It’s understandable, because they may not know any better. It’s not a great idea, though, and here are a few of the biggest reasons why…
You Need the Rights to Your Website Images
The biggest issue with taking images from the web and using them on your own site is that you don’t have the legal permission to do so. Someone else owns the rights to the images, unless you purchase those rights under the proper terms.
That might not sound like a big deal to you, but it can have enormous consequences. For instance, Getty Images—the company that owns several leading stock photo sites—uses automated software to track down unauthorized uses of its material. The fees, if and when they catch you, could rise to $1500 or more for each picture.
The cost for a handful of properly-licensed, royalty-free images is small. So, make sure you don’t use anything without the proper rights.
You’ll Get Better Images by Buying Them
By using an established stock photo site, you can search millions of different photos by keyword, description, color, and other criteria. That means a bigger chance of finding exactly what you’re looking for. And, you’ll have the option to download the size or resolution you need for your website.
Many of the images you find on the web have been edited by other web designers to fit a particular use or style. Even worse, they might have someone else’s branding on them, or be low resolution. By getting the pictures you really need for yourself, you create a better fit between your content and your website. You also make your pages look a lot better.
Using Royalty-Free Images is Just Good Business
Aside from the fact that you could end up being forced to pay fines, there are other good business reasons for getting the images you need.
For one thing, purchasing the right stock photos will often give you the files you need, along with the proper rights, in case you want to use them and other marketing pieces. And, there’s something to be said for doing the right thing—by paying a small fee for the images you are supporting the artist or business that created them.
When you weigh those benefits against the potential consequences of using pictures you shouldn’t on your website, the choice is pretty clear. Google might be great for a lot of things, but it shouldn’t give you the visuals for your website. So, take a few moments, and spend a few dollars, to get the files and rights you really need.