Fast Photos: Tips for Using Stock Photos on Social Media


Published: January 4, 2021 Author: Jason Holicky - Hometown Design Studio Inc.
Fast Photos: Tips for Using Stock Photos on Social Media

When building your main digital assets, such as your company’s website and social media profiles, it’s essential to invest in professional photography to accurately capture and tell the story of your brand’s identity. Plus, people want to see pictures of the actual products they are purchasing and see the people who will be providing services rather than a photo that comes pretty close.

On the other hand, we are all creating content on a continual basis, most of it requiring a visual image to go with it, especially when filling our feeds on Facebook and Twitter. Budgets and time are not endless, and it’s not always possible to have a high-quality, professional photo from your own sessions for every occasion. Stock photos can come in handy in those cases, but there are a few things to know before jumping in.

Stock Images on Social Media

Can I use Stock Images on Instagram & Other Social Media?

The short answer is yes, you can use stock photos on your social networking sites and occasionally on a blog post, videos, and other content. The long answer is if you plan on using stock photos, there’s a right way to do it. Your main objective will be to make sure they don’t look like purchased photos with their corny graphics, over-emotive faces, and unlikely poses.

Most of us think we can spot a stock photo fairly easily, but the truth is that we’re all good at spotting images that lack authenticity and individuality. We’re very good at spotting poorly chosen or poorly used stock photos, but we’ll never know how many we’re not noticing. The challenge then is to sift through a database of photos designed to be generic and broadly appealing to find the ones that look like they came from you.

Mastering the Search

Mastering stock photos starts by learning how to use keywords to search for the images you need. Your instincts are probably to type in the first words that come to mind and start scrolling, but this can be a critical error. The first words that popped in your head about a specific topic are likely to be the first ones that everyone thought of, too.

While this may be what we’re all after for search engines, using the most popular search terms on photo sites means everyone looking for similar photos will be looking at the same set of images you are. If you want to find unique photos that are not likely to turn up on a hundred different social media feeds, you have to add a few unique keywords to start filtering.

Using Stock Photo Websites

For example, rather than searching for people, search for adults or children. If you’re trying to find a particular setting, name more than just the main elements: ”office” versus “casual office desks plants.” If you’re stuck and can’t think of what to add to your searches, look through the tagged keywords on a photo you like for inspiration.

Get the Right Look and Feel

When it comes to branding and your social media marketing strategy, finding photos that match the look and feel of the rest of your feed is important and will go along way toward making them look less like stock photos and more like a carefully curated collection. Start by using colors in your keyword searches, and think about things like perspective or point of view, too.

If you’re having a hard time finding photos that seem to go together, consider searching the collections of one photographer. He or she is likely to use similar styles in their photos, or they may have an entire collection of images that have the same look and feel, but contain a variety of subjects that you can use. After a while, you may have several artists whose photos fit the bill, and you may be lucky enough that they’re still active and adding to their collections.

Don’t Be Afraid to Edit

Before you begin modifying stock photos, it’s important to check the licensing for the particular image or website from which you’re sourcing photos. Most of the big-name, paid stock photo sites allow you to edit as much as you like and have only a few restrictions, such as prohibiting images from being used as part of a logo.

Some sites will have photos marked as “editorial use only,” which have more restricted rules around their usage, but it’s easy to filter them from your search results. Pay the closest attention to any sites with free stock photos as those will often have the most restrictions and often require you to include attribution to the original photographer.

Now, aside from stock photos that come with a bunch of rules and restrictions, there’s no reason to use images as they are presented to you unless they are perfect as-is. If there are parts of the photo that don’t belong, crop them out!

Or, if only a tiny portion of the picture has what you need, crop the rest. You can also add words, quotes, and logos to images to help them look more like they are yours, knit multiple images together, or add a color overlay to match your branding.

Making the Most of Stock Photos

When incorporating stock photos into your media mix, it’s important to choose images that are authentic and a good fit for your brand. It’s also important to include plenty of your own photos, too, to get the best results. If you’re stuck when it comes to using stock photos or you need help making them work for you, we can help! Contact us today to get started.

About the Author

Creative Director Jason co-founded Hometown Design Studio of New Lenox, IL in 2013. He spends his days guiding and consulting industrial clients and small businesses owners on their marketing strategy and projects. Jason enables everyone to be successful and grow their business by sharing his knowledge and experience.
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