Featured Marketing Writing/Content

How to Use Stock Photos in Marketing (Dos & Don’ts)

Image courtesy of Pexels

Marketers often cringe at the name ‘Stock Photos.’

And truthfully, we cannot (always) blame them!

Today, the World Wide Web hosts numerous stock photos sites that offer royalty-free images at affordable and sometimes zero cost. They are high-quality pictures available in multiple categories, making it easy to reuse for commercial and personal purposes.

However, even the best stock photos lack the exclusivity that comes with customized images. They can be utilized by anyone, and there is a good chance you may see the image you use appear on a competitor’s website as well. 

Some stock photos are also pretty cliché. Enough to turn off your audience with their unnatural illustration and inauthenticity.

But does that mean we should forego stock photographs altogether? 

And what if a marketer doesn’t have enough resources to hire a photographer and take fresh images? Should they limit their marketing protocol to ‘text only?’

Definitely not!

Tips for using Stock Images Effectively

Marketers share a unique love and hate relationship with stock photographs. 

Yes, they may hinder your brand’s originality and creativity. But those who know how to use them correctly, find stock photos an instant visual content solution – available with a single click.

In fact, 42% of marketers admit that stock photography is the most frequently used visual content in their brand’s marketing strategy.  

How do they do it? Let’s find out the Dos and Don’ts of using stock photography below.

Don’t Use Irrelevant Images

Humans are visual creatures. The addition of images, videos, and Infographics help them retain the context better than a lengthy piece of text. However, don’t add images just because it is a trending element of marketing. Instead, make sure the photos support your writing.

For example, if your content is about a specific brand of smartphone, simply adding a random stock image of a person using ‘any’ phone is not relevant and will not add the necessary value to your content.

Do a Comprehensive Search

With thousands of options offered by stock photo sites, marketers often mistakenly download the first picture they find. Unfortunately, the images don’t resonate with the core message of their marketing campaign and fail to make the right impression.

Dig around a little longer. It may take some time to search for the image your target audience instantly relates to – but in the end, the extra effort you put in will be worthwhile.

Don’t Compromise on the Quality

Focus on quality when looking for stock photos. Images that are blurry or over-pixelated don’t add any visual value to your content and will also reflect badly on your brand and put off many readers.

Remember, adding a poor quality image is just as bad as using no photos in your content.

Do Experiment with Stock Photos

Did you know that there is no need to use the whole photo when using stock images? 

Yes, you don’t necessarily have to use the entire photo. If you like some part of the photograph, you can easily crop, collage, and experiment with them for a unique outcome.

Don’t Use Generic Images

Two businessmen shaking hands, a man pointing at floating icons, or a group of friends unenthusiastically posing with a glass of champagne are just a few of the countless cliché images you may find in a stock database.

These types of pictures are overused, and even the average visitor can spot them easily. 

Moreover, they are unnatural and won’t do much to stand out in your website design. The key is to look for photos that appear realistic with models that don’t seem staged or out of place.

Do Mix your Images

Apart from stock photographs, try incorporating other forms of media in your marketing content.

For example, videos are rapidly becoming one of the most preferred types of content. 87% of marketers also use videos in their marketing strategy and are satisfied with the ROI of their efforts.

Try adding short footage to convey your brand’s message. Infographics and screenshots are useful as well for backing up any claims you make in your content.

Don’t Forget SEO

Optimize your images for search engines by adding Alt Text or a small description of the image you use. If, for any reason, your photograph fails to load, the Alt Text will appear in its place to explain the content.

It also helps screen reading tools describe images to visually impaired readers and allow search engines to better crawl and rank your website.  

Do Optimize Large Images

One thing that frustrates internet users more than mediocre content is slow loading website pages. In fact, the majority of users won’t hesitate to abandon a webpage if it takes longer than 2-3 seconds to load.

To avoid a slow loading page, make use of the tools available on the internet to optimize large images. This will ensure the maximum quality of your pictures but keep the file size low for fast loading.

Don’t (always) Fall for the Free Trap

As the saying goes, ‘you get what you pay for!’ Freemium stock sites often lack the quality you get with paid models. They are often overused as well.

Moreover, free stock agencies often don’t validate if images submitted to them are copyrighted with proper permissions. And you can potentially become subject to a lawsuit even if you downloaded a copyrighted image without awareness.

To ensure peace of mind, choose images from reputable and paid stock sites. They are generally inexpensive, high-quality, and come with legal permission for reuse.

Do remember the Licensing Details

Even if you do use free images, remember to look at the licensing details of the stock site you use. As mentioned above, there are copyright rules that come with each stock photo. Some websites offer you complete freedom for reuse while there are others that prohibit commercial use.

Images, both paid and free, require a model release as well. The model release is needed every time you use an image with an identifiable person, building, trademark, or logo. Reputable stock sites clearly indicate their rights of usage.

Leave the image in case you are in doubt about the licensing!

Ready, Set, Stock!

Stock images may have a bad reputation in the world of marketing, but they can be a valuable asset for marketers, designers, and bloggers if appropriately used.

Follow the best practices listed in this blog post, and you won’t have a reason to avoid photo collections.

About the author


Amos Struck

Amos Struck is a publisher and entrepreneur in the stock imagery field. He focuses on providing knowledge and solutions for buyers, contributors, and agencies, aiming at contributing to the growth and development of the industry. He is a recurrent speaker at Photokina Official Stage and an industry consultant at StockPhotoInsight. Amos is passionate about technology, marketing, and visual imagery. He also holds a keen interest in WordPress related news and articles. He is a recurrent speaker at Photokina Official Stage and an industry consultant at StockPhotoInsight. Amos is passionate about technology, marketing, and visual imagery. He also holds a keen interest in WordPress related news and articles.