Using Bad Stock Photos (Conversion Killer 4)

Bad stock photos ruin otherwise awesome landing pages. Fix it by following this outline of getting the most out of your photos.

The web is a visual medium, and while you can have a landing page of just text, it's a good idea to add visuals to accent and backup what you're saying.

The problem is most of us aren't expert photographers or accomplished graphic artists, so taking our own photos or making our own illustrations is a bit of a stretch for us.

Enter stock photos.

While stock photos aren't inherently bad (positive examples below), there is a trend of using bad stock photos that end up undermining the credibility of a landing page.

The worst of the bad stock photos are the ones that trigger a sixth sense of "that's not real" in a user. It's sort of like spam: people know it when they see it.

But that "not real" feeling will cost you, as a user begins to wonder "if that person on a headset phone isn't really waiting to help me with my problem, how real is everything else they're trying to sell me?"

This is something we see time and time again from UsersThink feedback. Bad stock photos destroy credibility almost instantly.

How to fix it:

Step 1: Stop using generic stock photos that everyone knows are stock photos

That might sound obvious, but you'd be surprised how many otherwise impressive websites keep doing it (Search Engine Land is one of the more guilty parties).

You're better off with no images.

Not sure what type of stock images I'm talking about? The two most popular are "person on a headset" and the "office teamwork" ones.

This person does not work for any website you see her on.
This person does not work for any website you see her on.

These types of photos have become so obvious that they've led to great parodies and collections, such as "women laughing alone with salad" and even used to promote a Vince Vaughn movie.

When in doubt, just don't use these types of images, unless you are going for an ironic or parody angle with your landing page. Ian Lurie does a great job with this approach, such as this post.

Step 2: Style your page via CSS

There's a lot you can do to add visual style and impressiveness with simple bits of CSS.

In fact, there might already be a very strong visual style to your site or landing page, all without using images.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't consider adding images to your page, but do keep in mind that's no longer the only way to make a landing page have visual pizzazz.

Step 3: Use more stylized images for implying tone instead of proof

There are a lot of great collections of good, free to use stock photos that don't have the "same old same old" feel to them (and we have a special one just for you below).

But I think a big distinction between the newer resources and the more traditional stock photos is that the new ones aren't trying to "prove" anything about what you're offering, and work more to set the tone or mood of your landing page.

And because of the nature of these images, their use on a page should also be different. They are often best used as large background images to set the tone.

(Don't forget to optimize your images first through a tool like ImageOptim before you use them on your landing page.)

Step 4: Take your own photos

Even if you don't own a professional camera, smartphone cameras have been improving at a rapid rate, and you can actually take good photos with them, if you know what you're doing.

The problem is that so many of us either don't know how to take good photos, or don't have the time.

Again, if this is an important landing page on your site, it might be worth the investment, to either learn yourself, or hire someone to help.

Step 5: Use social proof testimonials

A common way to incorporate images into your landing page is to have pictures of people who have provided testimonials.

The problem is that so many sites and landing pages have been using stock images for supposedly real users.

And one thing we keep seeing from UsersThink feedback participants is skepticism of real testimonials with real images. There's been so much bad behavior around fake testimonials that now we're conditioned to be skeptical even when they're real.

One way to confirm the validity of a real testimonial is to embed an existing testimonial from social media.

Testimonials like this one from Adam Steinberg of Transpose are pretty amazing as is:

And because it's so glowing, it could trigger a "too good to be true" reaction if it wasn't a real tweet from a real person, nothing hidden or falsified.

To embed a tweet on your landing page, go to the tweet link, then click on the "more" option (the three dots in a row). Select "Embed Tweet" and you'll get the code to embed the tweet on your landing page.

Pro tip: change the part of the code from class="twitter-tweet" to class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" to center the embedded tweet.

This is what we've done on our homepage, as well as our pricing page, and it shows real customers who have been thrilled with UsersThink landing page feedback.

This is one of the most effective ways to display real testimonials, and I'm surprised more people don't use this approach.

Step 6: Access our collection of 99 free, high quality stock photos

While there are a lot of resources online for high quality stock photos, it can get overwhelming with how many photos there are, not to mention seeing many of the same images over and over again.

That's why we picked the 99 best high quality stock photos we could find online (all are CC0 so you can use them in anyway you see fit) to use on your landing pages.

They're the best free stock photos out there, and should give you a number of options for your project.

Access our collection of 99 free, high quality stock photos

Step 7: Modify existing stock photos to give them a distinct look

If you do pick good stock photos to use on your landing page, there's always a risk that a user might recognize those photos from other sites.

By making small modifications to the images, you can help make them distinct from the originals while helping them blend with the look of your site.

Two quick and easy ways to modify existing stock photos, even if you're not a graphic designer, are to tint the image a single color, or to blur the image (or both).

With tinting, you can make an image match the color palette of your landing page, and with blurring you can make sure the image doesn't distract too much from the message you're working to convey.

In both cases, LunaPic has very simple online tools to help you both tint your image or blur your image without any difficulty.

By following these rules to using stock photos on your landing pages, you'll be able to increase conversions with ease!