Picking Stock Photography

In the world of stock photography … there’s the good, the bad and the really ugly. It’s our job to help lead our clients in the right direction and away from photos like this.

“I think this encompasses teamwork and speaks to our mission.”

Oh boy. Picking a good stock photo is more than just doing a keyword search for “teamwork.” Here are a few things I consider in my search for the perfect stock photo:

  1. Keep the client’s overall branding and look in mind. Do they tend to stick to more traditional pictures? If so, why? Perhaps their branding is in need of an update? Granted, some clients/industries (nonprofit, financial, health, etc.) have certain looks they need to adhere to, which is understandable. However, I’ve found that, even if you’re tasked to find a photo for something seemingly mundane (think: “financial gain”), there’s a photo out there to fit what you need that is not totally boring or cheesy. Sometimes thinking outside the box and going for a solution that’s less “expected” is a great way to help your client’s brand grow, creatively speaking.
  2. What’s the budget? Stock photos can get crazy expensive, depending on the size and licensing you need. You may find the perfect photo for your project, but then realize that it’s way out of your budget. Most stock photo sites allow you to search or filter photos by price.
  3. What’s the goal for the photo? Look for photos that evoke the “feel” that you’re trying to convey.
  4. How will the photo be used? Is this going in an eNewsletter or on your website? Will it be used for social media or a print ad? Consider the composition based on your need. Would a horizontal or vertical photo work best? Will you need negative space to add text to your photo?
  5. Who is the audience? Are we trying to appeal to parents? Business owners? Kids? Imagine yourself in your audience’s shoes when looking through photos.
  6. Avoid trends. Look at the content in the photo. Try to avoid choosing a photo with technology (phones, computers, etc.) and clothing trends that will quickly date themselves. Remember how cool the first iPhone was when it came out?
  7. Licensing: Royalty Free vs. Rights Managed. What does it all mean? Royalty Free images are images you pay a one-time fee to use and have the freedom to use the image multiple times for multiple purposes (within limits). Rights Managed images are purchased by a user and allowed a one-time use as specified by the license. If you need the photo for additional uses, you must purchase additional licenses. An advantage to using a Rights Managed license is that it could ensure no one else uses the image in a conflicting manner. Exclusivity rights must be stipulated in the agreement. Other images may be free to use under a public domain. This means that you are able to use the photo without purchasing a license, for commercial or personal purposes. You can find more information about licensing here.

So, now that you know what to look for, where should you venture to avoid the cheesy, outdated photos like the above example?

  • Stocksy
    Stocksy United aims to set the bar for creativity. They offer a tightly curated collection of high-quality stock photos to anyone seeking modern, relevant, authentic images.
  • Unsplash
    Free high-resolution photos. 10 new photos every 10 days.
  • Death to the Stock Photo 
    Sign up for this monthly eNewsletter and get “themed” photos, zipped up and delivered right to your inbox. For free.
  • Getty Prestige Images
    Hand-picked selection of the world’s most powerful imagery. Created by award-winning photographers and art directors, curated by our leading editors and available for exclusive use.

What would I have chosen to represent “teamwork?” Perhaps a more modern take on what teamwork might look like in today’s office environment… something like this.

Let’s band together to rid the world of boring stock photos! Check out Canva’s list of great stock photography sites that offer high-quality, FREE photos!

Need a laugh? Check out these stock photos of women thoroughly enjoying their salads.