We considered starting this post with an example of an especially awful stock image, but we decided to spare you. You know the ones… posing “business people” in a dazzlingly white office, a woman smiling in a meadow, someone pointing at something.

So how do you find good stock images for a website? If you’re digging through high-end stock sites or free public domain images to no avail, maybe it’s time to start thinking outside of the box. Try one of these great stock image alternatives on your next website and stand out from the pack.

1. Custom photography (including your own)


Photography in web design isn’t going away any time soon. On the contrary, it becomes a hotter trend every year. People respond well to photos, so you should find a way to keep this tool in your design arsenal without always resorting to stock.

One obvious solution: do you have a camera? If you’re a creative professional, chances are you’re more than capable of taking a decent photo, and this way you can be sure it will actually be tailored to the website’s content. If the required image is too far out of your expertise, convince your client to hire a photographer.

2. Vivid color blocks

This alternative to stock images could not be easier: instead of photographs, fill your website with broad, vivid blocks of color—another sure-fire thing that people like.

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3. Big, bold typography

If it were up to us, good typography would always hold pride of place in web design. But we realize that experimental kerning and ligatures might appeal to the design crowd more than the average joe. Unsurprisingly, many of the sites below are for design studios.

Not all of them, though. As you can see, big, bold typography is also anchoring cultural websites and giving an edge to craft beer, wine and spirit producers, among other industries.

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4. Artistic illustration

Photography hasn’t been around for all that long. Prior, if you wanted to depict something, you drew it. And if you’re a designer, we’re guessing the old fashioned way still appeals to you.

Replacing photographs with illustrations is a great way to craft a warm, inviting website, or to create alluring textural patterns. As you will see, the trend has been adopted across the business spectrum, from fashion blogs, to craft breweries, to pedicab services.

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What do you think are the best stock image alternatives in web design? Share in the comments!