There’s an odd trend happening in digital marketing these days. Websites are getting a bit too handsy with their stock images. Yeah, we know it sounds crazy, but I bet you’ve seen it, too.

Websites that show hands vs. people; hands vs. products; or hands vs. brand storytelling.

The reality is if you’re not selling jewelry, nail polish, or even antibacterial ointment, hands don’t really have much of a purpose on your site, unless, of course, they’re attached to real people. But, without showing these people, you’re left with phantom limbs that don’t showcase your brand and value.

How to Get a Handle on Your Site’s Stock Photography

Headshot of two young creatives with design elements behind them.

Not a fan of reading interviews? No worries! Check out episode 2 of our new Beneath the Brand podcast for tips on how to choose website images that fit your brand and offer better engagement to users.

Q:Okay, Josh. Seriously, what’s the deal with so many hand images?

Josh: Think about the industry we work in. Digital marketing is all about connecting customers with brands on smart devices. Therefore, it’s only natural to show hands that are swiping an app, typing on a keyboard, or using a tablet, right?

The problem is too many sites are overusing this idea. So, what we’re left with are images showing hands using devices vs. people engaging with products.

Q: Why do you think so many companies are doing this?

Josh: Let’s not forget where many of these images are coming from: free stock photo websites. Think of Pexels, Unsplash, or Pixabay.

Yes, these can be great resources for blog articles or social media posts, but for your company website, you should be using images of your own products and people.

On our site, for instance, we showcase websites and digital ads by designing mockups of them in the real world, including desktops, phones, and digital displays. This way, even if the image is of someone holding a smartphone, what appears on their screen is the mobile version of one of our client’s websites.

It helps us show potential clients our capabilities and how we can take their advertising and branding to the next level. If I were to just show random photos of people typing on a keyboard or scrolling on their smartphones, you might still think I’m in marketing, but you have no idea how I can support your advertising needs.

Remember, your site is a digital platform for you to tell your brand’s story and offer solutions to customers. Don’t use stock images that don’t portray your capabilities, products, or services, as this takes away from your overall messaging.

Q: Why is hand stock photography less effective?

Josh: They don't convey anything, and honestly, they’re not interesting or engaging. Like you said, if you’re not selling products that are either created by or used to benefit hands, they don’t really say anything about your business.

Q: What are some best practices for using hand images?

Josh: If your heart is set on using hands, I’d recommend hiring a hand model. The worst thing you can do is ask Dave from IT to pose for a few website photos of him typing on a keyboard. You’ll end up getting chewed fingernails or crusty dry skin that’s not only distracting but it’s also hard to look at.

Trust me, I’ve seen it all. If you insist on hand photos, hire a professional hand model.

Q: Is there a time and a place for hand stock photography?

Josh: Absolutely! If you run a construction company, custom cabinetry business, or even a bakery, hands can help tell your story. Think about the labor of love it takes to build a custom dining table set from wood or to knead dough to make the perfect loaf of bread.

It requires sweat, muscle, and yes, hands! This is where it’s okay to show rough hands or calculus fingers. In fact, this helps depict the passion behind each handmade creation. Again, it tells a great story and provides emotion that will engage your users.

To put it simply: if hands tell your brand's story, use them. But if you’re using a picture of someone holding a smartphone to demonstrate that you offer PPC services or graphic design, you’re not telling them anything.

Q: Any last words of advice?

Josh: If you’re going to show hands, don’t crop them. Show the rest of the person, too, as this showcases both personification and engagement. After all, people want to see other people using your products. This way they can visualize themselves using them, too.

Does Your Site Need a Hand?

We couldn’t resist the pun! But in all seriousness, we’ve created a quick exercise to help you understand whether hands are hurting or helping your website.

Take a moment to look at each hand stock photography on your site and ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. Does this have anything to do with our service/product?
  2. Is this impactful/provide symbolism?
  3. If I took the copy away, could you tell what I do?