Using stock photos in your marketing and 3 resources to make it easier.

The quality of your marketing more often than not comes down the quality of pictures. Bad stock photos have a massive impact on the perception of your brand and could if you are not careful, change someone’s mind on whether they use your service or product.

Now, I’m not saying don’t use stock photography. There are many times when you can only use a stock photo. But I hope this advice will help everyone understand what makes a photo good for stock use and what you should look to avoid.

Understanding quality stock photos.

When searching for stock photos some think the best thing to do is just search for what they want and pick one of the first two images that come up because it’s easy and running a small business is incredibly time-consuming.

However, I sometimes spend a few hours finding one that fits the material I am designing and respects the brand I am working with. The right stock photo should be something simple with a bit of brand colour, where possible. It will explain a lot about a subject, but won’t over complicate an image.

An example of a bad stock photo

A bad photo, although easier to find, is much more apparent in your marketing material and removes some professionalism. When you look at them you will notice that the framing is busy, there is poor edits to add or remove items, and the picture will do very little to explain or pull in your customers.

The picture above is an excellent example of what a bad stock photo is, although I’m not saying it’s a bad photo overall but I wouldn’t use it on marketing material. Why? The focus is all wrong for me. Instead of the artist and paintbrushes being the focal point of the picture, they have focused in on a bit of a hand and the paintbrushes. On your material this would look odd, there’s too much to think about and it doesn’t really tell anyone anything.

An example of a good stock photo

A good photo, on the other hand, is very simple, it follows a good style and has excellent framing. It explains what the picture is about. Immediately you can see in the above picture what the subject is about, the mess from the material is realistic, and the focus point is on the artwork with a few pieces of equipment dotted around for realism. I usually ask a photographer when creating a stock photo to not just focus on what looks good and arty, but what looks real.

The biggest difference between the above two pictures? The top one, with the watermarks across it, costs. The one below that is completely free. Sometimes the best things in life are free and with a bit of hunting, it’s easy to find an excellent stock photo.

Some key resources I use when looking for photography.

As a small business, sometimes it’s not easy for you to spend your hard-earned money, you have other more pressing things to commit to. But if it’s a big campaign, it makes it much easier but when you are starting out and trying to drum up business? Free is always better.

I know where you are, all of the photos I use on my blog come from free websites. But, where do you look for these excellent pictures?


Pexels is my go-to website for photography and videos. The example picture in this blog post is from that website. It has, in my experience, some of the best stock photography I have seen.

More recently they have delved into videos under the same premise. I am fully confident these will be as excellent as the photos.

Creative Commons Search.

CC Search is slightly different, where Pexels offers a CC0 license (which means you don’t need to credit the creator) the CC Search offers you different licenses so you have to be careful what you use, where. But you get a wider net of pictures. It searches popular search engines and photography websites to give you the perfect result.


This last one is much like Pexels, it is full of curated pictures created by wonderfully talented people. It also offers a CC0 license, which means you don’t need to credit anyone and you can use it for commercial and personal use without issue.

It, along with Pexels, is full of clever and talented people helping small businesses make an impact.

Don’t rush: It takes time to get your style right

Using this guide, I hope to make finding that perfect stock photo a little bit easier. However, it will take some time for you to find your style so when you are thinking of your website imagery, your next promotional flyer or your event. Take time to look through some images, and don’t rush it.

Finding the right stock photo will help you in the long run and the right pictures can help define your brand.

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