How to Use Stock Images Effectively

6 Questions to Ask When Choosing Stock Images that Fit Your Brand

Using stock images is a great way to affordably extend the life of your brand photography. However, finding stock images that fit your brand can be tricky and time-consuming. 

If you’re considering using stock photography to market your business, then we want to help you make wise decisions from a design perspective.

Here are a few questions you should ask while choosing the best photos for your website and marketing materials, including presentation decks.

1. Does this image relate to my message?

While it may seem like a natural progression to search for stock photos related to the subject matter, it can be easy to get lost in the weeds. For example, if you’re talking about journaling and fall in love with a stock image of someone writing in a planner, that could be a distraction for your reader.

2. Do the colors in the image go well with my brand colors?

Once you’ve narrowed in on a topic, look for photos that feature your brand colors. They don’t have to be an exact match but finding stock images that include similar shades of your brand colors is best. This will make your content flow seamlessly from text to graphics to photos.

3. Does this image pass the vibe check?

In the same way that your words and design choices are thoughtfully picked based on your brand’s style, the stock images you select should feel like they align well with your brand’s feel.

Chances are that if your brand is sophisticated that you won’t be drawn to goofy stock images, but it’s worth defining what your brand’s tone is so that you can use that decision as a guiding light. Is your brand casual, classy, serious, humorous? When you’re reviewing your full draft (pictures included), you’ll get a better sense of how the pictures integrate into your overall message.

4. Is the image dated?

Look for images that are evergreen. (No, not green.) Like, the trees that never lose their leaves, evergreen images don’t have specific dates, years, or references in posters, planners, etc. This can include specific styles of clothing or décor, too. Need an example? Think gaucho pants or retro-patterned pastel curtains.

5. Is it obvious that the photo was staged?

You want the people to look as real as possible in each photo. Instead of choosing stock images with employees standing in the straight-line smiling, choose natural images where they are hard at work or having a genuine conversation around a table.

6. Will your audience find the image relatable?

Honestly, stock images’ biggest responsibility in your marketing is to hold your audience’s attention. Think of it like a children’s book. No pictures? No, thank you. But textbooks have pictures, too? Why don’t those pictures help us stay engaged in the text? Because, if your schools were anything like ours, the textbooks were outdated and unrelatable.

Practically speaking, if your audience includes executives from a national brand, they will find people in suits more relatable than an image of a professional who works from home. On the other hand, if your audience includes stay-at-home moms who are stepping into their entrepreneurial shoes, then it’s probably okay to include a home office with toys strewn around the room.

Pro Tips for Stock Images

Get the most out of each on-brand stock image by cropping it for various uses. The same image may look completely different when you use the blank space for text than it does when you crop the breathing room of the photo out.

You may find it helpful to do a stock photo deep dive for your brand, and then use the images as occasions arise.

Sourcing Stock Images Responsibly

Keep in mind, we’re approaching this subject purely from a design and branding perspective. You should always make sure the photographer or website where you’re sourcing your stock photos grants you permission to use their stock images to advertise your business.


Don’t forget. If you find yourself wallowing in the time suck that is designing and choosing stock images with no definitive direction, reach out to the Ruby + Citrine team.

Instead of an angel or devil on your shoulder, we’d like to be a designer over your shoulder helping you make better design decisions — from choosing stock imagery to editing your presentations down to the meat of your message. We’re here to help!

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Alex Alcantara

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