Stock photography has come a long way in the last few years. Don't get us wrong, there is still a lot of it out there that will do your brand more damage than good, but on the whole it's relatively easy to find appropriate, brand-enhancing images for your collateral and online content.
When you need stock photography
You won't always have a collection of professional photos of you and your business. Stock photos are perfect for blog posts, social media content, eBooks and newsletters.
Where to find good (free) stock photography
Unsplash was one of the first sites to disrupt traditional stock photo offerings (like Shutterstock and iStock). Its images are amongst the most authentic, creative, and contemporary.
Pexels is another good all rounder that helps you avoid resorting to daggy stock photography. It also has an excellent collection of stock video, and an assortment of curated collections to browse.
You'll definitely find some treasures in Pixabay's photo library if you search for long enough. Where Pixabay really shines though, is for illustrations and vector files. Check it out for resources to use for DIY marketing collateral.
Negative Space is best for corporate and architecture shots. It also has a vast collection of typography images (think street signs, and retro and neon signage) and architecture.
Honourable mention to our favourite paid subscriptions
At Social Broker, we have tried and tested many stock photography sites (there are a good thirty or so that we've not even mentioned here). Sometimes the free offerings – as much as we all appreciate them – just don't have what we need, or perhaps we want to avoid using the usual suspects. Our favourite paid subscriptions are with these sites (in order from most loved to less so):
Twenty20 is our pick out of the dozens of stock photography libraries we've tried. Browse their artfully curated collections for inspiration or to create your own cohesive library of images. Subscribe through Envato for around $300/year.
Adobe Stock is handy if you're looking for something very specific, due to their robust search and filtering functions. You'll find many 'visual pun' / metaphoric images, which is a style we feel has had its day.
Shutterstock has the most rigorous search capability, including being able to specify whether an image includes people and even to filter by ethnicity (helpful for ensuring representation). Plus, it's the biggest stock photo library, so it would be remiss of us to leave it off our list.
How to choose the right photo
Avoid choosing images that look overly staged, cheesy, or scream 'I'm a stock photo!' It's one of those 'you'll know it when you see it' scenarios.
If you're using images that include people, consider whether they look like real people in 2020. Bad stock photography can look dated (usually because it was shot many years ago). Good stock photography, on the other hand, will often feature 'real' unposed people in believable settings and natural lighting.
You also need to ensure the photos you choose reflect your target audience – which we're guessing aren't all as white, straight, conventionally attractive and with an early 2000s sense of style as some of the bad stock photography out there is!
To maintain a cohesive visual identity – across everywhere you publish content – you might want to consider sourcing photos in bulk. This way, you can see how they'll all work side-by-side. So rather than searching for, and choosing just one photo, download 50 at a time to create your own library of images.
Need a hand?
We offer an image curation service. What this means is that we'll spend hours scouring premium photo libraries to find the right images that showcase your brand's values and connect with your audience. Find out more here.