Finding stock photos for your website or marketing that are fresh, modern, candid, fit-for-purpose and original is as much fun as dropping your phone in the toilet.
If you've ever scrolled a stock library to pick out some images, you would have been bombarded by uninspiring, traditional, cliched photos your competitors highlighted and even brought. You probably ended your session with a mish-mash of images, hundreds of open tabs and no idea how to move forward.
You need to ask yourself: are the time and the money invested in finding the images worth it? There's a physical cost and a cost to your visual identity. And, sometimes, for a tiny bit more money, you can work with a photographer to create images that are easily identifiable as belonging to your brand and more consistent with your visual identity.
This article will help nail your photography style and give you hot tips on searching stock photos or working with a photographer. So grab a notepad and pen, and get stuck in.
Whether you're picking them for social media or popping them on your website, you are going to confuse yourself and your customers without a plan of what you need. So, you need to note down the following:
When I work on a brand identity for my customers, I always outline the photography style, so they know what to look for when they need images. Not all designers do this. If yours hasn't, start thinking about the following:
Think about your brands' characteristics and tone, do bright, well-lit images fit better, or do the photos need to be dark and earthy. (Examples)
What locations/environments/textures fit your brands' mood and style? I like to answer this question by creating an ideal office/home for your brand.
What are your brand colours, and how can you feature them in your images? Backgrounds? Clothing? Products?
What type of people feature in your photographs? Picking models that reflect your ideal audience is a great way to make your content relatable. Look for models that fit the age, gender, lifestyle and fashion style of your target audience.
Signup to Pinterest and search for your style of images. Pin those images to a new board. You can then share this with anyone you work with, including photographers. This moodboard serves as a fantastic collection of inspiration too.
Making a few style choices that cover a broad range of images will help you define and narrow your search.
When your style has been outlined, and you know what they are for, you can create your shot list.
You need to look at your key messages/website pages and decide how many photos you'll need for each message. Then note what types of images are appropriate and possible search terms to find them. It will leave you with a detailed shot list with ideas for search terms.
Searching stock libraries is time-consuming, but the above tasks will save you time and keep your brand consistent.
Stock images are a great way to access high-quality shots, but depending on how many images you need, it can work out cheaper to work with a photographer. The advantage of this is you will have original images which look like they are part of a set.
You can supply the photographer with your list of shots and let them work their magic. A custom photoshoot can set your brand apart and allows you to inject even more of your personality.
If you only need a few images, here's how to get the search underway.
Don't waste time looking over cheese-filled, low-quality stock libraries. There are some great ones out there—even free ones for when your budget is just kicking in.
My favourite free stock libraries
Free stock libraries are fantastic but can have limited options, which will push you towards paid stock libraries to help you complete your list.
My faves are iStock and Adobe stock. They have enormous ranges, and also cover illustrations and mockups. Getty is expensive but the go-to for unusual/celebrity images. Or if you're looking for a little social media training at the same time, give Social Squares a go.
Choose a related word to the image you need, like 'fish', and if you can't find something straight away, add some related works, 'purple fish aquarium'. Use the searches like Google, try different combinations until you find something that gives you a picture that you love.
Most of the above have a filter system, where you can narrow your search to include people or not, add in colours that are close to your brand, alter the depth of field, landscape/portrait and even gender. Some search bars allow you to add in the search terms that you don't want to see.
Found an almost perfect pic? But you need a different angle? Some stock libraries allow you to search for similar images or even more photos by the same photographers or models, giving you the chance to find pictures of a similar style across your project.
If you've chosen to stick to stock, download some watermarked images, send them to your designer, or try them on your website. This way, you can see if it works in the space and makes sense when you see it with the copy.
The same goes for a photoshoot; having some low-res, unedited images to see how things look will allow you to pick out all the photos you need.
Are you having trouble picking the best image?
Look for the image that communicates to your audience. People relate to people, so pictures of people often get a better response than objects or landscapes.
Your photographer will edit them to look similar to the style you highlighted earlier.
If you've picked and downloaded the images from a stock library and have photo editing software, Photoshop, Lightroom or Affinity Photo, you can edit your images.
Here's a list of tweaks you could make:
Now you've got your images from the stock library or photographer, back them up!
Setup a folder on your hard drive or server and store them all there.
Name it something sensible so you can easily find them again. If I was creating images for this website. I'd set up a structure along the lines of — Snapper Studio (insert your business name) > Assets > Photography > Website (project etc.). I'd keep the originals and the edited images too.
In your assets folder, store more folders of all your brand guidelines, logos, graphics, other photos, videos and podcasts. It's an effortless way to keep vital assets together.
Signup to get my download—how to plan a brand photoshoot! It runs you through everything from moodboarding, planning a shot list, booking a photographer and planning your outfits.
Have you got a friend lost in a million tabs with a visual style that looks like a plate of spaghetti? Maybe you can share this article with them?
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