Stock photos are a perfect compliment to finish off a blog or social media post, your real estate website, or an email blast to your database of contacts. Stock photos can get pricey if you subscribe to services like Shutterstock or iStock, but there are plenty of free options available to you as well.
“A stock photo is a professional photograph of a common place, landmark, nature, events, or people that are bought and sold on a royalty-free basis and can be used and reused for commercial design purposes.” – Webopedia
It’s important to note that there is a right and wrong way to do use them. Use too many stock photos and your brand feels empty and cold. Use too few and you miss out on a polished, robust user experience.
So where’s the balance? When do I use a stock photo, and when do I avoid one?
When NOT to use stock photos for real estate purposes:
Including a picture of a snowy home amongst evergreens on a lake for your “communities” page may look gorgeous, but if you sell real estate in Houston where annual snowfall is zero inches, it’s likely to confuse and frustrate your visitors.
Good business in real estate is and always will be highly localized. That means quality photos of your community, local shops, restaurants, and more, will always be preferred over its generic counterpart. If you’re showcasing neighborhoods or unique features about an area on your website, you’ll want to use real pictures of the local area, not stock photos.
Folks who are interested in reading about the neighborhoods on your site want to know what life in your community is like. They want to picture themselves living there. Stick to real, locally sourced photos to do the trick.
If you have an artistic eye, don’t be afraid to take pictures of your community while you’re out and about. Post them up to your social feeds with simple, fun caption, and you not only have an engaging post, you have just “saved” this photo to your newsfeed. If you want to come back and use the photo later, you know where it’s going to be.
When SHOULD I use stock photos for real estate?
Say you just wrote a blog post on the top ten ways to prepare your listing for an open house. You pull out all the stops and list everything from washing the windows to baking cookies the day of the event. While your content is skillfully articulated with plain text, you need some visuals to make it “pop.”
Enter the stock photo.
Picture of someone washing windows? Check. Piping hot chocolate chip cookies coming out of the oven? Checkmate. This doesn’t mean stock photos can’t be used for local events and activities, however. In fact, stock photos may help tell your story even better.
Say there’s a concert this weekend and you want to spread the word. You write a blog post on it to notify your followers, but you want a picture to accompany the post. The event hasn’t happened yet, but you’ll still need to get your message across with a stunning visual. In that case, a stock photo like the one below will do just the trick.
While a photo of the actual venue would be much better, sometimes they’re not all that easy to find. (And even if you find one, getting permission to use it isn’t always that easy). In this case, the photo still captures the essence of the event, and the stock photo saves the day.
The bottom line is this – use stock photos wisely, but always opt for locally sourced, high quality photos to promote events, neighborhoods, and shops whenever possible.