Launching a Website? Here’s Why You Need Stock Photos

When you buy a WordPress theme, it probably won’t come with those photos on the demo site.

Laptop Notebook Showing Photo Gallery Screen by Rawpixel
It’s easy to spend hours searching for the perfect WordPress theme, scrolling through themes and opening multiple browser tabs with roundups. If you’re anything like me, you get sucked in by all the pretty photos.

But the truth is, when you buy a WordPress theme, it probably won’t come with the photos on the demo site – the demos feature placeholder images, so you’ll need to find your own images to fill in the blanks.

Fortunately, it’s not that hard to track down your own awesome stock images to make your theme shine. And not boring stock images of happy people smiling in cliche poses. I’m talking about authentic photos of people and things in all kinds of different real-life situations.

So today, I’ll run you through some quick image stats, the different kinds of photos you might need for your WordPress site, where to find great images, and how to optimize them so your site runs smoothly.

Why images are so important on the web

Web trends are constantly changing, but there’s always one constant: great visuals never go out of fashion.

As the old adage goes, a picture tells a thousand words. And you know why? Because the brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text.

Here are some important stats worth keeping in mind:

Different types of photos you might need for setting up a website

When you’re setting up a WordPress website, you need to look for more than just a nice header image. So let’s take a look at a popular theme from ThemeForest, Arden – A Sharp & Modern Multipurpose WordPress Theme, and break down the types of images it uses so you can get a better idea of the types of stock photography you’ll need to search for.

Header/hero images

All example images from Arden theme.

These are the images that display at the top of your site and usually have a text title over the top. Hero images are quite the trend right now in web design right now since they can spruce up the design of a web page while also building depth into page content.

Arden’s “Business Classic” demo uses a realistic photo of a photographer with a well-placed title to the right.

Background images

Sometimes you might want to use an image as a background and that’s totally cool. If you want to feature text over the top, consider adding a lighter or darker overlay to the image so the words are easy to read.

Here, Arden uses a photo of a snow-covered mountain to add an interesting texture behind business numbers.

Blog post feature images

Like header/hero images, these are images that are displayed at the top of your blog posts and are often used as smaller thumbnail images if you display your posts as a grid.

The photo Arden has used for its blog demo page is on trend with photos you might see on Instagram – perfect for food bloggers.

Section images

If a page on your site is made up of “blocks,” you might want to insert images to break up your site, especially if it’s text-heavy. In the example above, Arden uses a section image to indicate blog posts on its homepage and help break up text content.

Parallax images

These are the images that display in parallax sections on your site. In the example above, this business site uses a parallax section to guide people to information about its culture.

When choosing a photo for a parallax section, it’s important to keep in mind that the image will scroll so imagery that doesn’t include tall elements, i.e. a person standing up as their head would be cut off mid-scroll!

General images

You might choose to scatter images throughout your site to break up content or illustrate a point. Stock images are an ideal option for adding real-world scenarios to your site, and Arden uses them perfectly in the example above.

Demo images

If you’re creating your own ThemeForest theme or launching your own website, you’ll no doubt need demo images to use throughout the theme.

Other types of images to consider

Let’s get one thing straight: you should not use Google Images to find photos for your site. Yes, there are plenty of stunning images, but they are most likely protected by copyright, which means they are not free to use.

You’ll need to think about more than just stock photography when setting up your site. Here are a few other types of images your site might need:

  • Abstract – Abstract images are great to use for backgrounds, textures and patterns.
  • Illustrations – Because sometimes illustrations just suit your branding better.
  • Scenes – Very on-trend. Scene generators are fantastic to use for header/hero images and custom landing pages.
  • Icons – Most sites these days need social media icons, but icons can also be used in more creative ways, such as in this article about blogging.

Optimizing stock photos for your site

Did you know that uploading large images with huge file sizes can slow down your website? That’s why it’s important to optimize your images (i.e. reduce their file size) to ensure your site runs fast.

The easiest way to optimize your images is with Smush, a free plugin for WordPress that automatically compresses your images when you upload them to your website. The plugin has racked up more than 800,000 active installs and this year was named the best plugin in the Plugin Repository, so it’s quality a plugin that the WordPress community has given the thumbs up.

Here’s how to install and use Smush:

  1. In your WordPress dashboard, go to Plugins > Add New and search for “Smush.” It should be the first result.

  1. Install and activate Smush. You’ll be automatically taken to the Smush settings page, where you’ll have the option to “Bulk Smush Now” – which means optimize all of the images in your WordPress media library in one go. Go ahead and click the button.

  1. When you scroll down a bit further on the settings page, you’ll see an option to “Automatically smush my images on upload.” This means that each time you upload an image to your site, it will be automatically optimized so you don’t have to worry about doing it manually – Smush will do it in the background, ensuring your images are always reduced in file size so they display beautifully on your site but also don’t slow it down.

Great stock photography is easy to find!

Just because the theme you’ve purchased doesn’t come with stock photography doesn’t mean it can’t look fantastic! Hopefully you now feel inspired to go out and find your own photos for your site to fill in the blanks. There are plenty of great stock photography resources, including our own recently launched stock photos on Elements so you’re certainly spoilt for choice.

Jenni McKinnon

About the Author Jenni McKinnon

A copywriter, copy editor, web developer, consultant, course instructor and founder of WP Pros(e), Jenni McKinnon has spent the past 15 years developing websites and almost as long for WordPress. A self-described WordPress nerd, she enjoys watching The Simpsons and names her test sites after references from the show.