Stock photography gets a bad rap. Some consider use of stock photos to be lazy, generic, or less than authentic. But the truth is, stock photos are a great asset to the savvy business owner, when chosen and used wisely.
That’s not to say there’s no such thing as bad stock photography.
There are plenty of stock photos out there best described as bland — no one’s going to be thrilled by another picture of smiling people in suits gathered around a generic conference table. But even a “bland” photo can prove useful with a little creative energy and thought.
1. Break Up Your Blog Post
Using stock photos as a featured image or paragraph break is perhaps one of the most time-honored ways of putting the humble stock photo to work. But have you ever thought about leveling up your stock photo game just a little? That picture of a smartphone, stack of papers, or computer screen might be perfectly apropos, but it’s also invisible. Just as a clever turn of phrase or vibrant metaphor can punch up the language in your blog post, a well-chosen stock photo can change a forgettable blog post into something that just might go viral. Choose something that ties into a metaphor in your article — or better yet, find the theme in your piece and find a great stock photo to go with it.
2. Spruce Up Your Social Media
Running an ad campaign, promotion, or special? The right stock photo can help you get some extra mileage out of those posts. Whether you’re promoting a product on Instagram or looking to make some conversions on Twitter, you can use (and re-use) stock photography to add visual punch, build familiarity, and add to your brand recognition. Punch up the photo with the right ad copy and the right cropping, schedule social media posts for maximum visibility, and you’ve taken your ad campaign to the next level.
3. Add Original Photography, Mix Well
No company likes to be thought of as lazy or lacking in authenticity. One of the most low-effort ways to avoid this: mix authentic photographs in with your stock photography. It doesn’t have to be an expensive, professional production. Many companies build rapport with their audiences by including shots of their working environment, casual product photography, even selfies. There’s no reason why these photos can’t go right along stock photos on the same blog post, website, or Facebook page. As long as you choose your photography carefully and stay on brand, it can’t hurt.
4. Old-School Print
Every once in a while, you might find that rare and compelling stock photo that just speaks to you. You might even love it enough to make it part of your print materials, from brochures to business cards. When this impulse arises, don’t be afraid to embrace it. In the digital age, it’s easier than ever to put a photo on almost any item you can imagine. Just make sure you purchase the proper license before you jump in.
5. Revitalize Your Website
Good stock photography can enhance almost every aspect of your website, from header images to navigation buttons; banners to eye-catching download links. They’re a great way to add visual punch at a relatively low cost, especially for short-term promotions or temporary additions to your website. A user’s eye might slide right over a staid, featureless button. Offer them a tantalizing photo instead, and your website traffic patterns just might change for the better.
6. Shareable Content
We’ve already established that choice stock photography can liven up your product or service promotions — but what about just connecting with your customers without selling to them directly? Stock photos make a great background for inspirational quotes, PDF or e-book covers, survey questions, or other social media communications. A tweet or Facebook post made up of plain text might go unnoticed — but a bold, eye-catching photograph won’t. If you’ve chosen your stock photos wisely, you might even be able to re-use the same material and make it a recognizable element of your brand.
This is also a winning strategy for platforms like Pinterest, where users save and reshare content of all kinds. A savvy business can offer a link, e-book, PDF, or other resource, offer up the link as a stock photo with a catchy title, and let the traffic roll in.
7. Remix and Repurpose
Finally, don’t be afraid to alter a stock photo to truly make it your own. If you have the graphic design chops within your company, put them to use and take that stock photo (or photos) to a new and interesting place. Add text, punch up the design, combine elements to make it express your unique voice and vision. Again, just make certain your license allows for it — and if not, purchase an upgrade to make sure you have the freedom to re-purpose that stock photo as you see fit.
It’s not difficult to make creative use of stock photos in your business. All it takes is some time, imagination, and creativity. Adding stock photos to your website or social media presence can be a low-cost and rewarding way to add visual flair, distinction, and marketability to your business. Just be extra careful to respect copyright, credit your artists, and know your licenses, and you’ll have a great asset on hand.