There’s a not-so-well-kept secret in the design, marketing and advertising industry and it’s called free stock images. I’m not against the companies that offer free or cheap stock images, I believe it’s a great resource, and there’s nothing better than to be able to to use decent images for your project and not to spend a huge chunk of your budget: but this comes at price, that is almost impossible to calculate. A price your project will pay for the disconnection between copy and images. The pool of quality images is so small, that you’ll likely end up using an image that’s being used everywhere on the web. And this also happens with paid stock images.
We know the importance of content, but when the word “Content” pops up, we are basically just thinking about written copy in digital and print media pieces, so images are in most cases an afterthought unless we are talking about editorial pieces. From the beginning of the project, budgets are rarely assigned to images, whether photos or illustrations and once the project is well advanced, there isn’t any budget allocated for images, this happens either by mistake or by disregarding the importance of those images as a crucial part of the content.
An image is worth a thousand words.
A bad image is worth more than a thousand bad words.
I can say that most of the times I have designed for any kind of media, from print to digital, I had to place the infamous initials FPO or “For position/placement only”. Yes, there are cases where from the moment you started designing you knew what kind of images you were going to use, because those images were commissioned to a photographer or an illustrator but today you can just place beautiful free images, and some designers might even think they are saving money for the company when they are not. It is worth mentioning that when you don’t have a choice, free images are a blessing, but when the company you are working for, or a client believes images are not worth including in the budget, then there’s a problem, apart from a deep disregard for professionals like photographers, videographers, and illustrators, there’s no understanding about content. Cutting corners and saving a little bit of money on a project by not investing in proper images is like buying a sports car and getting cheap small tires, it’s just not going to perform well. But hey, It’s more than ok to use free images for a blog post or small projects that lack budget.
The message is simple. Unless your project is small and with a restrictive budget, or for a very small company or client, don’t be cheap.
Nowadays, we talk a lot about the importance of “UX writing” but good UX writing or good copy writing for a project will be affected if the other parts are not on the same level or lack cohesion to the content. Content is text, images, typography, the design of all the parts working with each other, and it also includes user experience. Good content with bad UX is a shame, and the same goes the opposite way.