I am a figment of fantasy.

Ahhhh, stock photography. If done well, stock photos can add a powerful, visual element to the content on your website.  But please (my February resolution is to be more polite), please take the time to do comprehensive photo research when you don’t have a shutterbug on hand. Planning the visual aspects of your website is just as important as honing the writing. People can often tell a stock photo when they see one.  That cute woman with a headset and a haircut like a social studies teacher from 1992? She’s not gonna take my order.

Order now. Our operators are waiting.

(And when you find that stock photo that encapsulates everything you want to say in one glorious, crystal-clear image, buy it for goodness sake. Don’t screenshot it and put it up with the watermark showing. Cheap ass.)

Now back to that lady.  I can understand why you might want a photo of a human on your site. Even if the human is not anyone you’ve ever met, and is likely just a clever composite of pixels and Photoshop and googly eyes. Some people believe that a face on a website attracts people – keeping them on the page longer. If that’s your metric, then great. Hang out all day! But what if you want your visitors to take an action?  Wouldn’t it be better to ask them (nicely) to do that?  Wouldn’t that be preferable to having them stare at the blazing white teeth of the Grecian Man who clearly isn’t really a doctor?

Thumbs up!
Here’s a great post that looks at faces, proportion, and direction of sight/gaze. And there are lots of bad and good comparisons,  which are helpful visuals if you are a visual sort of person like me.  All of these wee factors can really impact the experience of your visitors.

People are great.  People on your website are great. Especially if the people actually work at your business. If they don’t, it’s highly unlikely that you will fool anyone.  And think of how pissed they’ll be when they do show up and are greeted by your current receptionist, who still has a trace of Movember hanging on and a Cinnabon habit. There went my February resolution.

Here are some great sources of images for your website, especially if you have a small budget. If you’re using a Creative Commons image, please make sure that you understand the license and attribute responsibly. Don’t rip photographers off. They’re the ones capturing our lives, eh.

Flickr’s Creative Commons

Creative Commons Search

Compfight: A Flickr Search Tool

Google Advanced Image Search

Got another one? Add ’em, Dano!

The full report is ready for download. So are other local government action resources.