Tips on Using Stock Photos

Images are a key component of every marketing design. When used properly, images can have an enormous impact, enticing viewers to stop and take in the message.

Finding the right images can be a challenging task because there are many options.

  1. You can take your own photos, but most of us are not professional photographers and amateur efforts never look as good. Plus, you might want something that you can’t easily photograph: a photo of an island in the ocean, for example, when you live 1,000 miles from the beach.
  2. Another option is commissioned photography, but the cost can be prohibitive for SMBs. It also requires a lot of time and effort: selecting locations, hiring models, etc.
  3. The third—and easiest—alternative is stock photography. One of the advantages is that you have millions of photos to choose from and it’s easy to purchase and download from websites.

One big downside of stock photography is that the images you choose might also be used by other subscribers to the service. But if you’re willing to risk not having a one-of-a-kind image, this is a cheap and easy option.

To use stock photos effectively, here are some things to consider.

Welcome to Chicago BrochureAppropriate images

Take time to look for appropriate images that relate to your content. If a photo is amazing but it doesn’t connect to the message, your communication is not effective.

Sometimes, you can combine two stock photos in order to come up with what you have in mind.

In this example, I used an image of the Chicago skyline and a vector illustration. Once I knew the look I wanted to achieve, I developed this design and made adjustments to both stock images by adjusting colors, lighting and depth of field.

Proper resolution

Some sites vary their prices by resolution size. Don’t settle for low-resolution images because it is cheaper. Look for something that is a perfect fit for the project. If you can’t afford a particular resolution of a photo, what you can do is look for a similar image that is cheaper with the same resolution.

Resolution Options

Generic images

You don’t want to select a photo that has been used repeatedly or looks staged with overly-posed subjects. You want to show people with more candid expressions. An authentic image in a realistic setting works best.

Ignoring the fact that a business person at a computer can be a bit of a cliché, you can see the photo on the left creates a subtle and more real reaction and expression, as the subject seems to be focused on what he is doing and reacting to it. In comparison, the photo on the right looks staged like a shot in a catalog.

Generic Images

It is also important for your image to reflect the main message of your material. For example, if you are talking about catching up on reading for work over the weekend, like Kelly did recently, an image that makes sense is a person reading in casual attire and a relaxed setting versus in a suit in an office.

Product photos

Inserting products on a stock photo background is one of the most common techniques used. But if the tactic is obvious, it will look terrible. It can be a tedious process to make the image look natural by adjusting shadows, highlights and the overall scene lighting but it is well-worth the time invested.

You don’t want to feature your product this way.

Bad sample

You can see many mistakes in the example above. First, there is a white line on the left that doesn’t match well with the car’s angle. Second, the lighting of the car looks wrong since the sky is somewhat orange. Lastly, the car should be on the right side of the road if you are targeting North American customers.

On the other hand, the example below exhibits the best way to add in your product into a scene with consistent lighting, color and a perfect angle.

Good sample

Image quality

To achieve the goal of the project, the image must have high quality and be visually appealing. Avoid any outdated and non-professional photographs. It is your designers’ responsibility to know the current design trends, but some things to look for are clothing, hairstyles, places, furniture etc.

You wouldn’t want to use this photo to illustrate your hair salon because of the old style.

Image quality sample

This one is more current in terms of the hair and the attire:

Image quality sample

In this ad, the designer has effectively used a high-quality image. The colors reinforce the message and draw attention to the copy.

Sample ad

Stock photography is an invaluable resource that makes the development of creative marketing material cost-effective and convenient. However, you should take the time to select the perfect image that will work with your message and your marketing materials.

About Mel Fernandez
Mel is senior graphic designer for marketing at Affinity Express. He combines his love of art with an understanding of advertising and marketing principles to create effective designs.

2 Responses to Tips on Using Stock Photos

  1. Sunil Maske says:

    thank u sir nice tips

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