It’s clear that visuals are important. 90% of all information sent to the brain is visual. In fact, the brain processes images 60,000 times faster that it does text (source). So it’s no wonder that we want to ensure we have beautiful, quality graphics on our website, collateral materials and social media marketing. In an ideal world, all our images would be custom shot or illustrated for our specific needs, but not everyone has an eye for photography or the budget for a custom shoot. So that’s where stock photography comes into play.
Stock photography is a commonly used way of acquiring images, whether illustration or photographs, for a variety of needs. You can add some color to your blog post, liven up your brochures and sales collateral, or use it in packaging, banners and other promotional materials. It used to be that stock photography cost a pretty penny, but these days, you can find affordable – even free – imagery!
As with everything, there are advantages and disadvantages to using stock imagery as opposed to custom photography or illustrations.
Price point is lower, so that is generally on top on the list of why someone might use stock photography. There are various places where you can find free or affordable photography to use on your graphics. Particularly when you’re blogging regularly and want to add a splash of color to your post, sometimes it’s more convenient to find images to use from a stock photo site (I’ll list some of those further down).
Stock images are for everyone to use, whether paid or free, therefore someone else can already be using the same images you’ve selected. This may or may not be an issue depending on what images and in what way you use them.
Sometimes it’s hard to find the right image. If you plan ahead and strategize with a photographer or illustrator, you can create a library of images you can use for your design needs, however, with stock photography you’re essentially stuck with what’s already available.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite places. Of course, there are plenty that I haven’t mentioned, but here are the ones where I find the best results with less digging around.
The international blogger’s association has a more robust list of stock image sites, for the purposes of this post, I used the ones I know and like.
Free Stock Photography
Free & Paid Graphic Design Resources
Traditional Paid Photo Stock
Find Your Style
Just because you’re not working with bespoke graphics, doesn’t mean you can’t still establish a style. Do you typically like images with a lot of whitespace? Do you feature mostly women or feminine images? Perhaps you prefer darker, bolder graphics. Maybe you like illustrations more than you like photographs. Start defining what sort of images you like and keep as consistent as you can.
Also, consider sticking to a few sites or even photographers whose style you like to keep things consistent. You’ll find that different stock sites have a distinct style of what type of images they provide or the overall feel of their images. Once you find one that works for you, start there first.
Create a Graphics Library
When I’m on a stock photography site, I’m typically looking for something specific, however, that doesn’t mean that I can’t keep an eye out for an image that fits my brand that I could use later on. If for example, I’m doing a search for “woman taking a photo”, but I find some images that have nothing to do with photography but might work for another post further down the line, download it. Keep it in a folder and next time you need an image, you can start looking in your own library first, it will save you time.
ALWAYS Confirm Usage
For the most part, if you’re using stock images for your own site or materials, you’re ok in terms of usage rights. However, some images will have restrictions when it comes to items you print, sell or resell. You also don’t want to use stock images for logos. Make sure you know what the usage rights for the particular image you’re using in relation to how it will be used. And make sure you save the usage rights and any relevant info for the photo (ex: what site it was purchased from, what the usage rights are and any licensing details they may offer).
Stock photography can certainly come in handy, we just need to remember to keep our branding in mind as we select images. Hopefully the resources & tips above will make it easier for you to stay on-brand. If you have any additional questions, feel free to reach out!