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Mission Control / Healthcare

How to Choose Photos for Your Healthcare Organization’s Website

When it comes to selecting visual content for your healthcare organization’s website, the options may seem slim at best and overused at worst. Here’s how to dig a little deeper and find imagery that’ll elevate the look and feel of your site.

Choose Healthcare Photos

By Katie Bridges

We’ve all seen her, the septuagenarian with close-cropped white hair and a toothy smile. She’s clad in a seafoam hospital gown awaiting her mammogram, maybe, or pulling up the sleeve of her sweater to receive a vaccine. More often than not, she’s dressed in athleisure, doing yoga poses in her living room or out for a jog with her equally toothy-smiled husband.

Essentially, she’s the “senior woman” of Getty Images, and she’s likely on a billboard (or blog post or mailer or magazine cover) near you.

There’s a reason “senior woman” is everywhere. The photos she appears in are pretty good, as far as healthcare stock imagery goes: They boast good lighting and composition, feel authentic and are imbued with a certain hopefulness — you, too, could be doing yoga in your living room! But taken together, the photos reveal a truth: that finding good medical stock can seem like slim pickings.

That’s why, with the healthcare content we create, we go in with an image strategy — a strategy we’d like to share with you. Here are our five tenets for choosing successful visual content for your healthcare organization’s website.

1. Create (and Follow!) a Mood Board

While that “senior woman” image might be a good fit for a blog post, you’ll need to consider other options to keep your site from feeling one-note. By creating a mood board that features a variety of image types — stock with people, stock that’s more conceptual, illustrations, medical renderings, etc. — in a common palette, you’ll have a visual representation of your goal aesthetic. It’ll also allow you to set parameters: Do you want a crisp, dynamic feel to reflect cutting-edge research, or photos that are warmer and softer to suggest care and comfort?

2. Avoid the Dreaded “Pain Pose”

Type “pelvic pain” or “migraine” into a stock imagery search field, and the results will be flooded with images of people grimacing in exaggerated pantomimes of pain. Here’s the deal: Nothing seems less authentic. Dig a little deeper and look for imagery that’s more subtle — an image that’s cropped more closely to feel a bit more editorial or focus on the treatment rather than the symptom.

3. Consider Conceptual, Editorial Illustrations

There’s certainly a place for medical illustrations, such as a rendering of an organ or a depiction of cancer cells, especially when you’re speaking to a physician audience. But think beyond the straightforward medical illustrations and work a few conceptual illustrations into the mix. Use these as an opportunity to tackle big-idea pieces — the rise of telehealth or informatics, say, or even as a way to avoid overused generic stock options for something like cancer treatment or pharmacy.

4. Ensure that You’re Representing the Staff and the Procedure as Accurately as Possible

For medical content geared toward physicians, researchers or those funding advancements, it’s essential that the art director choosing the images is immersed in the nuts and bolts of the content and isn’t just working off a headline or an abstract. If the art director works closely with the writing team and medical editors, they’ll be able to identify search terms and definers that will lead to the most accurate imagery.

5. Choose Images that Are Diverse and Inclusive

When a potential patient (or donor, or physician recruit) visits your site, they need to see themselves and their families reflected. Be mindful of who your audiences are — all of them — and ensure that they are represented in the imagery on the site in terms of age, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, economic status and other diverse backgrounds.

Are You Stuck in a Stock Photo Rut?

We can create an image strategy that gives your team the structure and the flexibility to elevate your organization’s image selections.


Katie Bridges Overlay Blue
Katie Bridges Managing Editor

Katie has almost a decade of editorial experience, spending most of those years as an editor at regional magazines. A Georgetown University grad, she helps guide digital and print content programs from concept to completion for C/A clients such as Vanderbilt Health, Niagara Falls USA and Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation. She has written for Garden & Gun, Washingtonian and Arkansas Life, among others.

The mother of two young girls, Katie can most often be found on a hiking trail with her family (Sedona’s a favorite). She’s a Southerner through and through, and the only member of the C/A team who uses the word “y’all” with abandon.

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