Do Stock Photos Hurt the Credibility of Your Blog?


A recent article about design tips for bloggers made a surprising claim about the use of stock photos. I respectfully disagree.

When I started this blog more than 17 years ago, I knew I had to make a choice about visuals. I could decide that I would just skip photos and illustrations and focus on the text. Or, I could decide to use photography, either original pictures I took or stock photos I licensed.

We’re a visual species. We like to see images on websites along with text. I find the proverbial “wall of text” to be intimidating and less hospitable to blog readers.

Some bloggers have valid reasons to forego images on their sites. I don’t fault them for that.

I wanted to use images. On a given week, I might talk about an issue on blogging, a grammar quagmire, something to do with a restaurant or a controversy with journalism or the latest political skirmish in Washington and a hot topic in a church.

I could not find a practical way to guarantee that I’d be able to shoot original images for all of those topics. It’s not like I could hop on a jet to DC to track down a politician for a feature image on politics. I couldn’t snap photos of every topic-appropriate image I might need.

Stock photos, for me, seemed to be the best answer to make this blog visually appealing.

I don’t make any apologies for their use here.

Do stock photos hurt a blog’s credibility?

But I came across an article on TechBullion titled, “9 Best Design Tips for Bloggers and Website Owners.” The third item caught my eye. It states you should avoid stock images. Why?

“The types of images you select for your site will dictate your branding and how readers perceive the credibility of your site,” the article states.

It’s sometimes better, the article says, to use no photos than stock photos because of the quality of stock photos.

Sure, some stock photos appear to be of a higher quality than others. I try to use high-quality photos at all times. Most importantly, I try to use photos that accurately and appropriately depict the topic at hand. The images, as I see them, help the reader focus in on stories that they’re interested in. That’s why I chose a blog layout that features visuals prominently.

I do agree with the article’s notion that websites should use photos of their actual team rather than stock photos of people that aren’t affiliated with the company. Most people would have no way of knowing if that’s the case unless they see that same stock photo elsewhere. But if that were to happen, yes, I believe that could hurt that site’s credibility.

But that’s companies, not blogs.

When I’m writing about a topic on, say, computer problems, I’ll use a photo of a computer or someone using a computer. I don’t believe for a second that using a photo of someone other than me using a computer in such a general topic undermines this site’s credibility.

I don’t know why anyone would believe that.

If stock photos hurt this site’s credibility in your mind, I don’t think you’d have been reading this far into this article. After all, that terrible old stock photo is right up at the top of the post.

Do you find images from stock photo libraries particularly offensive? If so, would you prefer a wall of text with no images (when there’s no way to take an original one)?

I hope your answer to both questions is no.

If not, I fear this blog may be a big disappointment to you.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.