Should I use stock imagery on my medical website?


When selecting images for your website, stock photography is often the easiest and most feasible option. Not only is it readily available, but it also offers a professional finish that looks good online. However, although stock images may be appealing, it’s worth thinking twice before using them. Instead of helping your business, this type of content has the potential to put-off prospective patients.

The benefits of stock photography

Stock imagery is widely used for medical marketing and advertising purposes, with online sites – such as Getty, Shutterstock and 500px – offering an extensive range of high-quality photographs. Two kinds of stock images are available: royalty-free (almost unlimited use of a photo) and rights-managed (one time use of a photo under a specific license).

When creating a medical website you can access literally thousands of professional-looking images, from doctors and patients to facilities and procedures. Digital databases make them easy to search through and when you find an image you like you can download and upload it instantly.

With such images at your fingertips, why spend valuable time or resources arranging a photoshoot, or relying on your own camera skills or those of your team?

Professional but not credible

Stock photos may appear to be the great solution, but they lack one very important thing: credibility. Although they are depicting real people and situations, they are not real. This matters, especially in the medical world where demonstrating integrity and building trust are vital components in attracting and retaining patients.

To build trust you need authenticity. Yes, a well-composed stock shot of a smiling doctor and patient may appear to get your point across, but it adds little value to your overall message that you are a genuine, credible service provider. In fact, it can actually create a negative impression with the stylised finish overriding believability.

Creating a real, human connection

Potential and existing customers are not fooled by slick, inauthentic photos which show nothing of who you really are. They want to see the human side of your business. They want to see the actual doctors who will be treating them, the kinds of premises you work from and, if relevant, for example for a cosmetic surgery provider, before and after treatment shots.

By using real images you can humanize your service. You can help people establish an emotional connection with your brand which results in greater trust and, ultimately, more appointments. For this reason, taking your own photos, rather than downloading stock images, can be worth the effort – but it must be done right.

Be authentic but stay professional

Unless you have the creative and technical know-how, taking your own photos for your website is not recommended for medical industry content. Whilst amateur may work well for your social media accounts, on a website they can appear low quality and unprofessional. Instead, it is worth employing a photographer to take the photos for you – just check your staff are comfortable with this before you go ahead.

Not only will a professional ensure the lighting and composition is right, but they can also assist you in developing a visual story that is consistent with your brand and values. This way, you get images that are authentic and unique, but polished. To do this you must be prepared to invest and to update photos when staff come and go, but the end result is often worth it.

Make image selection a priority

In an ideal world, using your own professionally taken photographs on your website is the best way to go. However, sometimes time or money constraints can make stock photos the most viable option for all or part of your content.

If you are looking at using stock, be sure to use quality sites, choose images that complement your content and service values and avoid overly staged or posed shots. And, importantly, pay attention to the copyright licences and who else is using the image – the more it is used, the less effective your SEO efforts. A good graphic designer can guide you through the process.

Images may speak a thousand words, but what those words are matter – so make your website images a priority.

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