The existence of stock photography is proof you can’t do everything alone.
The market for still images is expected to hit $4.46 billion by 2021, which shows how many businesses are happy to outsource their photography needs. Stock photography is an excellent solution for companies don’t have their own, in-house photographer. But using stock well is an art in itself and has some pitfalls for the inattentive marketer.
That’s why we’ve put together this beginner’s guide on how to use stock photos in your marketing.
Find the Right Source
Before you can even think about the finer details of using stock photography, you’ll need to find a good source. There’s a wide range of stock websites out there, but to find what you’re looking for, you’ll need to take a few factors into account.
Your stock resource needs to be reliable. That means they’ll offer a wide variety of images at a reasonable cost, so you’ll always be able to find what you need. You also need a site whose license matches your needs.
Finding the right stock source can save you a lot of time. Some stock aggregators like Oodls can even gather images from multiple sources, which can act as a one-stop shop for stock purposes.
We’re long past the era of JPEG artifacts. Leave them in the early 2000s where they belong.
Choosing high-quality, high-resolution stock isn’t just important aesthetically. It also has a direct impact on customer satisfaction.
If you’re in marketing, then the whole point of your images is to draw the eye and convey a message. If poor image quality distracts your target audience instead, your marketing will miss the mark.
Check the Licence
Sadly, using stock photography isn’t as simple as typing “photo stock images” and your subject into Google. That’s because copyright law governs how you’re able to use stock images.
Stock images usually fall into one of two licensing categories.
Rights-managed stock images may have specific limitations around their use. For instance, the license may keep you from utilizing stock for commercial use, such as selling it as a poster. It may also include a date at which the license expires. Think of it as hiring a vehicle.
Royalty-free images give you more freeform. Some are freely available, but you’ll have to pay a one-time fee. Once you’ve done that, you can use the image for as long as you like and for most purposes.
RF is often a preferable option for businesses as it means their evergreen content won’t expire thanks to a lapsed license. RM stock could mean throwing out brochures or renovating parts of a website when the license runs its course.
Don’t Forget Your Vision
There’s something about using stock images that seems to shut down the imagination in some people. How many corporate websites feature images of generic smiling employees bathed in heavenly light?
Don’t fall into that trap. Stock images can be as striking and memorable as any other. Choose an image that captures the imagination and communicates the core of whatever message you’re trying to convey.
This also has the added benefit of making your photo look less generic. Visitors know what a generic stock image looks like, so choosing something with a little flair can elevate your marketing.
The most striking images of all time are those that evoke passion and emotion. The human brain reacts strongly to visuals. Effective marketing taps into some of the same areas, so photography and marketing are natural partners.
Try to choose stock images that move your customers to your desired emotions. Stir up positive emotions like passion, or awe to set a mindset for your audience, priming them for your message.
The color composition of your stock will also play a role in this. Colors can evoke certain emotions when used in the right context, so bear that in mind when choosing your stock. Even the perfect image may be the wrong choice if the colors aren’t right for your brand or message.
Make a Few Edits
It’s likely you’re using stock because you’re unwilling or unable to generate the right kind of images in-house. But mild editing is a simple and effective way to put your own spin on your stock photos.
The most basic tweak you can make is to overlay some relevant text on your stock image. But you can also tweak the color balance, composition (through cropping), and other elements to put your own stamp on the image.
These tweaks can help bring a greater sense of brand identity to your image. It’s also a way of putting your own mark on the stock to make it something more unique to your business.
Tweaking the color palette of an image can even lead to a complete change in tone. We already covered the importance of evoking emotion, and this is an effective way to do that. A muted palette of blues and greys, for instance, conveys something sadder and colder than bright colors — even on an identical image.
Tweak Your Filenames
When you download a stock image, it will usually come with a generic name. This filename might be a string of numbers or a summary of the image contents.
If you’re using stock for marketing, you should rename the image. This makes it more SEO-friendly and separates your website from any other places it may have popped up.
Depending on where you use it, you may also want to tweak the photo’s alt text or the hashtags you use alongside it.
How to Use Stock Photos the Right Way
Now you how to use stock photos the right way. It’s an art in itself, but with a little practice, you should be able to access the images you need to take your marketing efforts to the next level.
Looking for more marketing resources? You can find our marketing and promotion section here.