The Idea Center - Blog
Swipe to the left

Using Stock Photography on Your Website or Direct Mail Postcards

November 4, 2013

Stock Photography

Pictures add an immense value to any direct mail postcard or website. Human beings are very much visually orientated, and we understand better when we have a picture to relate to the message being presented. It's that whole, "picture worth a thousand words" thing. They really are.

Using quality stock photography on your website can increase viewer retention, and decrease your bounce rate, because you are giving the eye something to land on other than a block of text. Well-positioned, high quality photographs can also increase the value and message transfer in business postcards. If you have a message to deliver, or a product to sell, you simply cannot afford not to use images as part of your direct mail marketing strategy.

What You CAN'T Do

When you make business postcards online and are ready to add pictures, there are some really wrong ways to go about it. Let us give you some simple guidelines of things to avoid.

  • Don't simply copy and paste the images from search engine results. There are free pictures to be had online, but most are protected by copyrights.
  • Don't assume a photograph is in the public domain, unless the owner specifically says so.
  • Don't assume attribution is all that is required for the use of a photograph. When in doubt, contact the photo owner and ask what is required for the use of their picture.
  • Don't assume you won't get caught. Not only is stealing photos unethical, but it is also illegal and can land you in hot water. Better to play on the safe side.

Where to Find Usable High Quality Stock Photography

Stock photography is simply a collection of photographs available and licensed for a specific use. There are numerous sites online that give access to such images for various purposes. Some of the most popular are:


You can do a simple online search for "stock photography" and you will be provided with dozens of sites offering a variety of subject matter. Some of them like offer photos that have been uploaded and released for free. There are real gems to be found there, but not all of the photos are of excellent quality.

Many of the sites allow you to either purchase the photos directly or to purchase credits that can be redeemed in exchange for a certain photo or photos. In most cases there are multiple file formats and sizes that can be purchased for each image. Be sure not to simply purchase the least expensive photo file, unless it is the size you need. For printed business postcard design, you will need a high resolution image of at least 300 dpi.

Different Types of Stock Photography

As you search different sites, you may notice some different terminology being used. Basically there are two types of stock photography.

  • Royalty-free
  • Managed use

Royalty-free files usually only require the license to be purchased once, and then the file can be used multiple or an unlimited amount of times. Of course with greater freedom of use, the chances of a competitor using the same photo get much greater, so be sure to do your research before making the purchase!

Managed use stock photos are files that include a single use per purchase. In other words, if you wanted to use a specific managed use file on a your jumbo postcards as well as your website, you would need to purchase two separate use licenses. Always be sure to read the "restriction" or "use" section of any photo you wish to purchase to be sure you are following the proper guidelines. Finding yourself in the position of copyright infringement can damage both your reputation and your bottom line. A few extra moments of research can save you a mountain of headache.

Getting The Most From Your Purchase

Stock photography is a great option for businesses that may not have the time or ability to hire their own photographer to produce their images. If this is a direction you would like to go with your next postcard marketing campaign, there are a few basic things to keep in mind that will help you get the most out of your stock photo purchase.

  • Purchase the highest quality file you can afford. You can always make a large file smaller, but it doesn't work the other way around. A little more money up front will ensure a file that will fit all your applications.
  • Always make sure to purchase a photo that matches your message. A pretty photo is not enough. It needs to enhance and support the message of your postcard or website.
  • Minimize your search time by using keywords. Most of the major stock photo sites allow you to search by keyword or topic. It is easy to get lost and distracted looking at thousands of images. Identify the keyword or topic you are focusing on and then search for photos that fit that category.
  • Avoid overused photographs or those that are cliché. If you have seen it before, chances are others have as well. Look for something fresh and different for your project.
  • When in doubt, don't. If you are unsure of the usage rights, or are unsure if a certain photograph would be best for you… leave it alone.

The use of stock photography should enhance your business postcard. If a photo truly is worth a thousand words, you don't want them saying all the wrong things! Well that’s it. Hopefully this has provided you with some answers on the use of stock photography for your website or when creating business postcards online. If you are not currently utilizing high quality images in your campaigns, consider incorporating stock photography for effective business postcards.