How (and When) to Use Stock Photography

By Sarah Hillegas

Stock photos often get a bad rep due to their lack of personalization, but they don’t have to. Knowing how to use stock photography (and when) can add that special touch your business needs.

When you’re passionate about your business and what you do, you want it to look good. The problem we often notice with small businesses, more so start-ups are that they typically do not have the means to hire a professional photographer to always take new pictures for them. As much as companies (and their marketing departments) would love to continually have custom professional photos, it sometimes is just not financially feasible. But, stock photos can help create the look you wish to achieve in your marketing materials on a budget. That is, as long as you implement them strategically. Here are a few tips on how to do just that:

First, Know the Copyright Rules

What many people do not realize is that you cannot search on Google images and use any photo you want for your business. Several of the these are subject to copyright rules, and you can get yourself in a world of hurt by using them without permission. Make sure to look at the terms of use and licensing that may come with your images. For example, we include a licensing agreement with our new product line of stock photos and wall art. In it, we discuss how you’re able to use the images. Regardless of where you purchase your own stock photos, be sure to review these so that you are ensuring correct usage of your product. Also, there are sites that do offer stock photos for free, but the quality varies and you may spend longer than desired finding the right image for your design.

Think About Your Design

One of our mottos here at Planful is to design with purpose. Before you click “download” on that stock photo, where do you see yourself using it? Do you have a quote in mind? Is it for a presentation? Think about the context first. Will the image(s) complement your efforts and make sense with your overall design?

Where to Use Stock Photos

Brochures, blog posts, direct mailers, and even some social media posts are all great examples of where you can use stock photos. While it is always the best to showcase images from your own business, sometimes you need great looking photos just to get a point across. Placing quotes on pictures continues to be popular for Facebook and Instagram. Below is an example of how we used one of our own stock photos in Canva to create a social media post:

Try to Avoid the Weird Ones

Ever go searching for stock photos and come across some really bizarre images? If you think they are odd, chances are your audience will as well. With that being said, you should also choose photos that you think your audience will respond to most. For example, if you work at a law firm, it is likely that your potential clients will not take you seriously if you use clip art in your marketing materials.

Don’t Go Overboard

At some point, you should include professional photography in your budget. Not every business will need new photos every year, but some, like us, should try to refresh its photo database at least once a year for quality and consistency to the brand. Try not to use stock photos for everything or all the time. After a while, people will only see you as generic.