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Getting the Most Out of Stock Photography in Your Marketing Materials
  • 28 March 2018
  • Eric Michaels

Getting the Most Out of Stock Photography in Your Marketing Materials

If you’re a small business owner with a hands-on approach to marketing, it’s important to know how to select the right images that enhance your brand message and promotional materials. Unless you have the budget to hold a photo shoot for every project, you will likely need to utilize stock photos in your marketing efforts.

Fortunately, there are affordable stock photo plans available for businesses of any size. Before you choose the option that works best for you, make sure you understand how to leverage these resources. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of stock photos in your marketing materials.

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Know your audience and have clear objectives

Before you start crafting marketing messaging and selecting the right photos, you need to make sure you know exactly who your target audience is and what your objective is behind the marketing campaign.

Understand the different types of photo licenses

When you sign up for a photo plan or use free online photo providers, you’ll notice that different images have different rights attached to them. It’s crucial to know the limitations of each license type so you understand exactly how and where you are legally allowed to use a certain photo. Here are a few of the key labels you should be aware of:

  • Royalty-free: When you see this label, you can use the photo as often as you like, and in whatever format you choose – whether in print or digital materials. Once you pay the fee or license the photo, you are unlimited in where you can use it. You can include it in a blog post, use on your social media account, or even in new brochures you plan to distribute.

  • Rights-managed: A rights-managed photo means that the material is usually a premium image. You will have to pay a license or usage fee each time you use it—which can get expensive for a small business owner. When you weigh the costs, it may make more sense to hire your own photographer.

  • Creative Commons: These photos cost nothing to the user and may be used at any time, in any format. It is important to note, however, that many Creative Commons images require some sort of attribution. In these cases, you will be required to provide a certain type of credit to the original source under your image. Creative Commons photos are also usually of a lower quality, so keep that in mind as you make your decision.

Choose photos that fit your brand and messaging

Once you’ve decided on a stock photo plan that works for your budget and you have a general idea as to the type of imagery you’re looking for (e.g., demographic type X in setting Y) —you can begin browsing photo libraries. The success of your marketing initiative can hinge on the right images that a) help convey your message and b) that your target audience can easily relate to.

You’ll want to use discretion when selecting your images. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind:

  • Authenticity rules: One downside of stock photography is that it can come across as posed or even comical. Avoid images that seem unrealistic and instead, look for pictures that align with your company's brand voice. Browse through competitor websites and their social media pages as well. First, you want to get a sense of their tone, messaging and imagery choices. And second, you want to make sure you’re not using the exact same stock photos that they might be.

  • Avoid offensive images: As a best practice, you should steer away from images that could come across as offensive, stereotyping or politically incorrect. The rule of thumb in most instances is to avoid images that are negative in general. However, you may go that route on occasion if your objective is to provoke action or a reaction from your audience.

  • Make modifications and write captions: Sometimes, you have to manipulate a stock photo a bit to really tailor it to your brand and audience. This can include cropping it or zooming in on one part of the image. Include text/copy to give context to the image – whether overlaying the photo or below it as an image caption. Include subtle graphics or style treatments that can help bring the photo into your brand voice. Keep in mind though that only certain types of photo licenses allow you to make these types of modifications.

Consider your options

When trying to select the stock photo plan that works for you, be sure to research the different options available. You can consider free services, like Pexels, if your budget for a project is small. Or, look into different paid options, like Bigstock or Adobe Stock, to get your marketing imagery where it needs to be. You can also access Stock Photo Adviser to compare different stock photo subscription plans side-by-side, making it even easier to find an option that works for your budget.

It takes a little bit of effort to get the most out of stock photos, but when you find the right plan that works for your business, the images you discover will add some exciting new flavor to your marketing materials.

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