When it comes to the presence or the lack of stock photography on a website is something that can actually break or make the design. It is always best to try and use custom photos or artwork whenever it is possible. But, there are also some very good reasons why you would want to consider buying someone else's work and one of those would be that it saves you a lot of time over making your own artwork. In order to keep your design classy here are some things you need to avoid when using stock photography.
Avoid using stock photography when you can easily shoot or create your own clip art for your design. Often those who love to design website also like taking their own photos as well. Instead of spending hours upon hours hunched over a keyboard searching for just the right photo collection for that perfect photo of say a bowl of strawberries for example, why not grab a camera and a bowl of strawberries and take the shot yourself? The point here is if you have the time and the creative ability then do the shot yourself, when it is such a simple one. However, if you have no camera skills then by all means continue looking for just the right photo.
Avoid using cliche or overused photos. Always make sure to look around at the competitors and if they are trying to get a concept across to their visitors and it's the same concept as yours, look at the photo or photos they are using. Often you will notice that they all may be using a similar one or even the exact same one but using it in a different way. This is something that you want to avoid. You want to try to find a photo that is totally different but still represents your service or product. By getting a different photo you can then try to represent you product in a unique and different way as well.
Avoid creating bad clipping paths or masks. Most people prefer that the photos or artwork be on a white background. This makes it very easy for designers to put the photo anywhere in the web design. However, not all photos are taken with white backgrounds. This means you often need to use something like Photoshop to create a mask that will make it look professional on the website. But if you don't have enough practice at masking the quality of artwork is going to suffer. So it is advised that you take a proper masking tutorial before trying to use such an option.
Don't use photos that don't relate to the content. Most of the time you want to have photos that are going to reinforce the message that is trying to be made apparent to visitors of the site. Photos should not be used to simply decorate the web page (exceptions would be blogs and sites for children). Even if the photo is absolutely incredible, if it doesn't relate to the content you should not use it.
Try to avoid buying low resolution photos because they are cheaper. Low resolution makes it difficult to be able to re-size the photos ending in disaster when it comes to quality. This is even true if your client is offering you a set of photos they got for cheap and want you to uses them. It is important for the quality of your work and your reputation as a designer to stand up for what you believe in and let the client know that no matter how much they liked the photo it simply isn't going to work because of its size restrictions. It is your obligation as a designer to take care of a clients best interest.
Don't use pictures of people that simply look over posed. What this actually means that a picture that appears to be perfect in every way is often the worst picture to use in your design. You should avoid photos that have the person looking straight into the camera. This will most generally make the shot look stiff, staged and posed. You want something that is more subtle and genuine without the fake smiles and blank stares that posed photos often have.
Just remember, if you must use stock photography it is important that you do so with extreme care. You need to take the time to make sure you find just the right piece of artwork or photo that is going to fit into the design perfectly. Also to make it even better make sure that you know how to use all the advanced features on Photoshop so that you can improve on the photo if need be.