There are hundreds of stock photos being used every day online – and is it any wonder?

When used correctly, photos can bring your media to life. Whether you’re updating your website, posting an update on social media or creating your next marketing message, a photo can make your message clearer, enhance a feeling and better portray what you’re trying to say.

However for many of us, choosing the right photos for our brand can be a confusing task! We may have an idea of how it will look, but most of us aren’t able to recreate that ourselves – and that’s why we turn to stock photos.

There are countless different photo libraries available online. Whether you’re looking for free or paid stock photos, you’ll never be short of choice. However, it’s important to your brand image that you use stock photos effectively in your marketing – so what’s the best way to do that?

[Please note: This blog post contains affiliate links. If you buy something through those links, you won’t pay more for it, but we’ll get a small commission in return – however, I only recommend things I personally know and/or love!]

Stock photos need to fit in with your brand

The stock photos you use need to fit in with your brand. On a basic level, this is often seen as picking a photo that matches your branding colours. This can work, if you’re simply after uniformity on your website or Instagram profile and want something to just look pretty.

However, branding is more than looking pretty, especially when it comes to photos. Your brand is more than just your colour choice or logo. Brand is a combination of many things, including your colours, your message, the feelings and emotions you want your target audience to feel, as well as the beliefs and values of your business. If you’re keen on being paper-free and environmentally friendly, posting images that include piles of paper or files and plastic drinking bottles will put you at odds with your brand and business values.

When it comes to your marketing, so if you’re looking to take your branding a step further, you’re not just wanting to select photos that look pretty – you’re also wanting to get a specific message across. And that starts with knowing your target audience.

(if you’d like to read more about branding, check out Brand consistency on social media and Business branding: how to brand/rebrand your business).

Resonate with your target audience

If you know your target audience, you’ll find it easier to pick stock photos for your marketing. Your stock photos need to resonate with your target audience. This isn’t just about picking photos that have the right age range and gender (although that does help!) it’s about picking images that will appeal to them.

For instance, if you’re writing for work-from-home mums, you could use images of home office environments, those that include small children, casual dressed ladies working at laptops, and even families enjoyed themselves. If you’re aiming at corporate power couples, your images will include couples in suits, standing/sitting/working in large corporate offices and, if you’re looking to resonate with honeymooners – romance, flowers, hearts and intimate settings are key!

Do your stock photos relate to your copy?

You’ve spent time getting the words in your copy right, so it’s fair to say you’ll also want an image that corresponds to them too. It’s no good posting some beautiful images that match your brand colours and are artistically arranged – if they bear no resemblance to the copy! We pick up on visual clues, so if your images are off, your message will be too.

This isn’t just important for branding reasons, there are important SEO reasons behind it too. Take Pinterest, for example. Pinterest is a visual search platform, so your images are used to help ascertain similar pins that may appeal to you. When you pin a graphic with a link to your blog on Pinterest, viewers can use your image to find similar results – and if you’re using a close-up image of a pineapple, artistically arranged on a table – the results are going to reflect more pineapples and tables!

(If you want to read more about Pinterest’s journey with computer vision technology, you can do so here).

Portrays the right mood and message

When you go to an art gallery, you’re not looking at the painting as just an image. You’re looking to see into it and behind it. You’re looking to read it and understand. How does it make you feel? What is it trying to portray? What mood does it signify? Why did the artist pick that colour or style? And for some, what was the artist thinking?!

Your stock photos need to portray a message. Do you want your readers to see fresh and vibrant or modern and zesty? Do you want them to feel comforted or inspired? Is your message one of authority and knowledge, or friendliness and intimacy?

Memes (static captioned photos) are great for creating mood and for summarising a message – plus they’re popular items shared on social media. My recommended tools for creating them include Stencil and Canva.

Recommended paid stock photo subscriptions

So now you know what your stock photos need to do, here’s my top recommended places to find them! Paid sites will tend to have higher quality, higher resolution images and many will also cater for specific niche markets – such as female entrepreneurs. I’ve personally used and can recommend:

Hautestock – Membership site that provides gorgeous stylish stock photos for women entrepreneurs.

Styled Stock Photos – Buy bundles, receive a set number of free images, or opt for one of their membership packages. Styled stock photos provides chic photos for the female entrepreneur.

Deposit Photos: Deposit Photos offers flexible subscriptions for premium high-quality images – no matter what your niche or preferences are.

Free stock library suggestions

Free sites not always best but here are some that might be suitable to help you find images for creating graphics:

There are hundreds of free stock libraries out there – and years ago, I registered for them all for fear of missing out. In reality though, there are great sites out there with graphics that you can use and may need – but find ones whose graphics fit your style and brand. Free sites aren’t always the best option as the quality may vary and the search limited, but they can be suitable use when creating graphics etc.

It’s also really important that you check the licensing agreements of free stock photos. Make sure you can use them for personal and commercial use and also check if you have to credit the image source. These are a couple of my favourites: