Media Bakery ID: IMS0220238 Colleagues using digital tablets in meeting

Stock Photos: Who Does it Best?

Stock photos are readily seen on the web. Resources such as Media Bakery offer a range of stock photography options for professional use. Of course, many major retailers take their own photos for their online stores and some people use public domain or free photo sharing sites. Regardless of where you get the photos, there’s a right and wrong way to use them. Properly chosen and placed images can pop and create a welcoming vibe. Like the TinyPrints website that uses stock photos to create examples of their product and inspire their clients. On the other side, poorly picked photos can turn the consumer cold.

Below are a few tips to use stock photos in a way that captures the eye as well as major brands that are doing it right— and those doing it all wrong.

Size Matters

Some major online shops use size all wrong. Target uses graphics that are simply too imposing and large for the visual style they are using. This is an issue while reviewing a single item, as the stock photo overwhelms the page and forces the text to be much too small. But Target does something very interesting. When scrolling through products, every image is almost exactly the same size. This is a fantastic design choice and establishes a comforting consistency across the board.

Compare this against portions of the Kmart web store. The products are organized in a grid fashion, but they are not equally sized. Some remain much taller than others, and it confuses the eye. Also consider this: the photos are outlined in a thin black border that further accentuates the off-kilter sizing. If this was omitted, it may not be as unfortunate a design choice.

Showcasing enough content without having to scroll is important, and the items can be analyzed in greater detail once clicked on.

The Values of Bordering

Bordering can be done effectively if it is slight. The Best Buy web store omits them entirely, which is effective. It places the white background against the white background of the photo, which is a fitting design choice. The Kohl’s website uses a similar style, and their stock photos that do not have a white background remain consistent because they also do not have a border. Walmart also employs the white-on-white strategy, confirming its quality and clean design style.

Image Quality

What Target does wrong in size they make up for with high resolution photos that look appealing despite their enormity on the screen. notes that using a low-resolution version of a stock photo is a common amateur mistake (so don’t do that). Many stock photography sites do offer a low-resolution version at a lower cost, but they should generally be avoided unless the content is simply being used for filler pages. Filler pages are either a page that is going to be changed soon or is used to fill up space. J.C. Penney uses absolutely astonishing image quality in their photos, as does Macy’s. On the other hand, it does not require a particularly trained eye to see that photos used on the Kohl’s website are a bit grainy.

Why Flash is Important

When scrolling over a stock photo, the Macy’s web store offers you a zoomed in version of what you are scrolling over. This works because of Flash, and it is extremely important in adding an interactive edge to a webpage. The Kohl’s webpage offers this effective addition, but as you can see at the Best Buy webpage, they have not implemented Flash, for a generally poorer result.

Media ID: BLD0107797 Mixed race businessman using laptop in clouds
Media ID: BLD0107797 Mixed race businessman using laptop in clouds

Always Backup

As you are developing a site, having a reliable web host and cloud backup server can save you hours or even days of headaches. With an organized and personalized backup plan, you don’t have to worry about broken images, resolution or resizing issues. You can keep all of your site’s information and photos in one place. Superior functionality is they key for developing a visually successful website. Make sure your server host supports updated applications like Microsoft Visual Studio or Silverlight.

Email us at to get access to Un-watermarked High Res Comps for your layouts and design.

Attribution: Elsa Strickland

Elsa is a freelance travel writer and photographer who is always on the move.

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