Stock images are licensed photos or illustrations that are designed and sold by a stock image company or provider. Think of it like a giant library full of different themes, images, illustrations, and icons for your everyday business owner. If used correctly, stock images can be great tools for any small business owner who wants to elevate the presentation of their brand and message!
But, as many of your know, stock image sites don’t get the best reputation in the world of marketing and design. That is because many stock image sites sell (or offer for free) sets of generic and sometimes cheesy images that don’t directly align with any theme or brand messaging.
And it’s not just the stock site creators making mistakes. It is the users too. Many people are not equip with the correct tools or advice for using stock images so they often repurpose images that would make any graphic designer cringe (and don’t align with their brand at all!). And even worse, they are using them illegally and putting their business at risk.
Today, I want to share advice for using stock images strategically for your business so you don’t fall prey to some common stock image pitfalls. I am going to outline a few do’s and don’t for using stock images AND tell you where I source some of the highest quality images in the industry for my business (psstt…spoiler alert, have you heard of Haute Stock)?!
#1 – Don’t use images illegally
Don’t get yourself and your business in hot water by using images illegally. Learn a few key pieces of legal terminology associated with using images (royalty free vs rights managed) and make sure you are following all the rules listed on the site when using the images.
#2 – Don’t use clip art or cheesy images of people shaking hands (please, please!)
You know the cheesy, unauthentic images I was mentioning earlier in the post? The people in suits, the person working at a desk with colorful post its, the two people shaking hands…can you picture those? Please, please don’t use these images for your business!
#3 – Don’t use images just to use a image
This one is important. Images can elevate an idea or brand message. But, you shouldn’t use an image just because you feel like you have to. Think outside the box, be creative, and make sure that if you are using images that they align with the message you are trying to communicate.
#4 – Don’t forget to customize the image
Customizing images to fit the message and your brand is ESSENTIAL. Think of how you can tweak the image to better fit the project you are using it for? Can you overlay a product or text onto the stock background? Can you use the image in a presentation to compliment other original photos? Don’t just download and insert. Be creative!
#1 – Do your homework and read the site permissions/copyright before you use an image
Repeat after me: follow the rules and don’t get sued! After you’ve found the site you want to use and you are ready to start using their images, make sure you read ALL of the permissions and copyright carefully and thoroughly.
#2 – Do find a site that you trust
Make sure you are using a site that is trusted and respected by other industry professionals. There are hundreds of stock image sites to choose from. Make sure the images are coming from a reputable source and moreover that the site explains their rules and permissions clearly!
#3 – Do make sure the photo matches the content
This goes hand in hand with the “don’t use an image just to use an image”. You might be tempted to add more beautiful images to your project or presentations for aesthetic appeal. Before you do this, make sure the image matches the content and enhances the overall message. You want to image to provide context and support for the message, not a distraction.
#4 – Do use high quality, consistent images for your brand
Quality over quantity – always! This point is one of the most important in this post. Be consistent with color, design, and style when choosing images. Check the quality of the image and avoid low quality, pixelated images.
Why I Love Haute Stock
Now that I’ve outlined a few of the do’s and don’ts of using stock images, I want to give you a little more information about the stock image site I use for my creative business. Haute Stock is a stock image site that I’ve trusted and used for years. One of my absolute favorite parts of this company is that it’s built by women for women entrepreneurs!
Haute Stock is a membership site that offers over 3,000 images (with new images every week) that are beautiful and polished (absolutely NO clip art!) Another huge perk of this membership site is that you have unlimited downloads so you can create a little stock library for your brand on your desktop.
I typically use stock images for a few different reasons. The most common places that I pull stock images for are blog post graphics and presentations/webinars. What I love to do is mix these images in with my own photography, creating consistent branding throughout the project. I am able to login to my account in Haute Stock, search, filter, and download a collection of images that fits the message and theme perfectly. Best of all, the rules and permissions are clearly listed on their site, making it easy for me to ensure that I am not going to get in any legal trouble using the images. Hooray!
When used correctly, stock images can be a fantastic visual addition to your brand! Do your homework on the rules, find a site that
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