They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But online marketers know that the right picture is actually worth a thousands bucks — and maybe even more.

The importance and value of good photographs increases exponentially as the product or service you sell increases in price. If you’re selling cheap e-books or video webinars for $9, then you can pretty much ignore this post. You can do just as well, and maybe even better, with a circa-1950 piece of clipart that you bought on a CD at Staples or OfficeMax.

But if you’re selling items that will make consumers pause once or twice before pulling the trigger, your website needs to help you close the sale. Unfortunately, the wrong photograph — or cheap-looking image — will do just the opposite. An unprofessional site will raise doubts as to whether you’re really worth it.

Because human eyes are naturally drawn to images on a page, especially evocative photographs, you want to make sure that the photo you use will help you catch visitors’ attentions and get them to the next step in your sales pipeline.

So don’t just throw any photo on your site. And please, don’t ever make the mistake of using images you pulled off of Google Image Search. Just because you can download it doesn’t mean you have permission to use it on your site. You can be sure that you’ll get a C&D (cease and desist) letter from the image owner’s lawyer in no short time… especially if it’s an outstanding photo (which is exactly what you want).

You’re better going to one of the free or low-cost stock photography sites on the web. Unfortunately, most of the free ones available aren’t the greatest quality shots or are very small. That may still be okay, depending on how you plan to use it. However, if you do use free photos, you will need to give an attribution credit on all the pages it appears. Sometimes, you also have to include a link back to the image owner, which may not be ideal from an SEO point of view.

A better alternative is to purchase high-quality photos from a low-cost provider. One of the best ones I’ve found is www.DepositPhotos.com. For the selection available, they charges the lowest rates around for royalty-free stock photographs and images.

Stock Images