7 Reliable Stock Photo Sites + Tips For Using Stock Photos

Images have the power to engage an audience. When you scroll through your social media feed, you see a text-only post and an image post. Which one are you more likely to stop and take a second look at? The image post, right? That says enough about the need for using images in marketing. 

Social media posts, blog posts, banner ads, and even print advertising materials look so much better when you have relevant images in them. Here are a few reasons why:

But not every business has the luxury of creating original graphics every single day and for every single ad or post. So, what’s the solution? Stock images! In every niche and every topic you want to talk about, you are sure to find plenty of stock images. Some free and some paid and with limited licensing options. When you understand the licensing terms and use them appropriately, stock images can add so much value to your marketing materials. 

Wondering where to source these stock images, and how to use them effectively in your content? We have all the answers. 

Best Sites to Find Stock Images for Your Marketing Content

Before we talk about the stock sites, there are a few quick things to understand. 

Irrespective of the stock photo site you work with, look for the license information for each image you use. 

So, double-check the copyright information and give due credits wherever applicable. Now, let’s look at some stock photo sites that most brands love to explore. 

Free Stock Photo Sites

1. Unsplash 

With over a million high-resolution images Unsplash is one of the most popular free stock image sites where you can find images in various orientations and file sizes. With its free license, you can conveniently use the images in your blog posts and promotional content without a worry. With thousands of new contributors every month, the site always has something fresh to check out. 

2. Pexels 

Pexels has not just images but also videos that are free to use with and without modifications. With the contributor leaderboard and intuitively segregated collections, it is easier to find the best-rated images on this site. What’s more, you can also download images in your preferred size and resolution without compromising on quality. Or if you wish to gain inspiration or put together a mood board, you can like photos and add them to collections to refer to them later. 

3. Pixabay

Pixabay has more than 2.6 million free images, illustrations, vector graphics, music, and sound effects to create your marketing designs. With an easy interface and clear free licenses for its content, this is a great site to go to for designs and inspiration alike. 

4. StockSnap.io

With plenty of categories to choose from, all the images on StockSnap are governed by the Creative Commons license. So, you can use them both for personal and commercial applications. The web-based Shutterstock Editor interface lets you quickly modify the images before downloading them. 

Premium Stock Photo Sites

1. Adobe Stock 

With subscriptions starting from $29.99/per month, Adobe Stock has photos, vectors, illustrations, templates, videos, fonts and so much more. With every plan, there is a limit on the number of standard and HD assets you can download per month. It also has monthly and annual plans if you want to use the content on an ongoing basis. You have the option to use the content with standard licenses or extend your license as well. 

2. Shutterstock 

Shutterstock has plans starting from $49 per month for image downloads. Team and enterprise-specific plans are also available for businesses that need a large collection of stock assets on a regular basis. And some of these subscriptions also come with custom licenses that can be defined based on how you plan to use the content and transfer the ownership if required. 

3. Freepik

Besides the regular stock assets like illustrations, photos, and vectors, Freepik also has standard templates for business cards, logos, flyers and so much more. You can also find mockups to display your designs and fonts and text effects to add a creative flair to them. Freepik has both free and premium content. But unlike the other free stock sites we spoke about earlier, Freepik mandates attribution for free images and there is a limit on the number of downloads per day for free accounts. For the Premium content, on the other hand, you can download the license file for safer use of the content. And premium subscription costs $24 per month (lower when you choose annual billing). 

Tips to Make the Most of Stock Images

Capture emotions

Conveying your concept is important. But what matters, even more, is making an emotional connection. What words cannot express, images can. And that’s one of the main reasons why visuals have their special place in marketing content. 

Take a look at the below images for the search term “teamwork”.  

You will notice similar kinds of images pop up when you search for stock photos of teamwork. And both images capture the idea brilliantly, there’s no doubt about that. But the second image might seem a tad bit more impactful for marketing content. Because it shows not just teamwork but also the positive emotions connected with it. 

Similarly, look for images that make an emotional connection and your stock photo will add so much more value. 

Consider the relevance 

The relevance of a stock image can make or break the impact. If the chosen stock image does not feel relevant to the copy or post description or if it feels like it is forcefully introduced in irrelevant places, it breaks the flow. You want your customers to look at your ads or posts in a particular hierarchy. That’s when they eventually land at the CTA and click that button. If your image feels out of place, it can distract your audience’s attention from things that matter. 

Build trust with relatable content 

Let’s say you are writing a social media post on the work-from-home culture. And you are looking for stock images to add to your post. Both of the images below might be displayed when you search for work from home. But which one do you think will be more relatable? 

stock photo

The second image is more likely to have your audience’s attention than the first one. That’s because it feels more realistic and easy to relate to. When you choose relatable images you are showing your audience that you understand their emotions well. And this automatically makes it easier for them to trust that your content will be worth their time. 

Make some tweaks to add value to your customers 

The engagement rate of original graphics like illustrations and infographics is 40%. So, to improve the effectiveness of stock images, consider adding a few extra details to them.  

stock photo

The above image with a weighing scale is pretty common when the content talks about weight loss. But how can you personalize it? How about adding a brief bit of copy to the design. Simple lists work really well too. For example, it could be a list of weight loss secrets, weight loss myths, and anything else relevant to the content or campaign where you use the image. While the image alone might look like something your customers have already seen, the text content in it will make them stop and take notice. 

A bit of your brand’s flavor 

With original designs, you have the flexibility to choose every single attribute of the design including the colors of various design elements. And this lets you create designs that look coherent with the rest of your marketing content. But what can you do when you use stock images? Finding stock images that fit your color scheme might not always be easy. 

In such cases, the best way to add your brand’s flavor to the design will be to use custom templates, frames, or even accents for text overlays on the image. The templates and accent colors will be aligned with your brand’s visual style. So, the stock image automatically appears relevant to your brand. 

Do a reverse image search 

This one step can save you from posting content that looks like a rip-off of existing content. Imagine you are creating a blog post on personal finance. And the title of your post and the feature image both look like other similar posts in this segment. Do you think people might eagerly click on the link when you share the blog post on social media? The chances are pretty low. They might think that this is probably something similar to what they have already read. If this happens, they might not be ready to waste their time in reading another similar post. 

What can you do to avoid this? Understand that your competitors and other businesses in your industry are using these stock sites as well. The idea of the content can sometimes be similar but how you personalize it to fit your brand and how you add more value to your customers will set your brand apart. For this, try to avoid stock images that are used too often. A quick reverse image search will show you a list of places where the stock image has been used. If you see that your competitors have used it, choose something else. 

Another idea is to go with the newest images. If the stock site has the option to sort images based on the date of posting, sort them with the newest displayed first. And then choose from them. These might be used in fewer places than the most popular ones. 

A Final Word

So, with a little preparation and a proper understanding of image licensing terms, you can confidently use stock images in your print and digital designs. Remember that a few basic modifications will make them blend perfectly with your existing content. The key is to choose the right kind of stock images and use them the right way without breaking the harmony in your marketing content stream. 

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