If you’re looking to save time and money while building your content marketing strategy, stock photos may be a more logical choice versus hiring a photographer or creating your own graphics. Choosing stock photos can be tricky: they could integrate beautifully into your marketing campaigns or become the laughing stock of Reddit. Here are some design concepts to consider if you want to use stock photos effectively:
1. Mood and Message
Does the color scheme you are using work for your brand? While this question includes the simple aspect of clashing with the colors of your website, it does go deeper than that. Do colors in the picture support the content and message of your brand? Do you want something more soft and subdued, or is your brand loud, vivid, and screaming to be looked at? If the tone and mood of the picture do not match what you are trying to represent, then avoid using it.
Here is an example of our photo guidelines from our style guide.
And here are some examples of photos that are NOT us…
2. Familiar Faces
Do you intend to include photos of people in your program? Before spoken and written language, humans knew how to read facial cues. So much can be conveyed to another person just with a look. To think that this does not apply to your stock photo choices as well is a misstep, but if the photo choice is smart it can work very well for you. Choose wisely the faces you want to represent your business! Also, be sure that you know your audience, as marketing is most effective when your audience can make a connection and identify personally with your message or image. Pick a stock photo that will be friendly and familiar to your target demographic.
3. Context is Key
You’ll want to think about exactly what you want these stock photos to convey. Most often subtlety is key to effective use of stock photos. Overly literal photos can detract from the message, or even be detrimental to your brand.
If this is something that you would use, maybe you should give your money to a graphic designer. This is the kind of stock photo that you would find on the site of your local seed bank.
4. Don’t Be Consistently Inconsistent
One of the biggest problems that you’ll run into when using stock photos is staying consistent. You will want to make sure that the photos you use are consistent throughout and look like part of the same family. Do you feature landscapes? Do you plan to only have stock photos of products? Make sure that you aren’t mixing styles. Whether you want your stock photos illustrated, 3-dimensional, or high contrast, you’ll need to pick one style and stick with it.
While the above photo is an excellent example of a highly stylized stock photo that is celebratory and fun, it will not look good next to another photo with a different style such as the one below.
Mixing styles and breaking continuity can completely undercut the impression you want to make on your audience and discredit your brand’s integrity. Even within a stock photo marketplace, you can find an artist, company, or publisher with a large image set. You can hone in on a good fit for your brand and remain exclusive to that style as best you can.
Stock photos are a great way to save time and cut costs when it comes to marketing, but it can also derail your long-term marketing strategy if used incorrectly. After all, if you give off the impression that you do not care about the content you are putting out, how can you expect your audience to? Be sure that you are entirely conscious and in control of the message you are trying to convey through your use of images. If you’re not sure what will work best in an article or advertisement, A/B test them both and let your audience tell you which is the most compelling.