February 19, 2021 | By:

How to Safely Use Stock Photos for Your Startup’s Marketing

One of the most popular digital marketing tips is not to use stock photos for your brand. However, if you’re just starting out with your business and your resources (and time) are limited, investing in professional photography equipment or learning to do it can prove to be costly and time-consuming.

As counter-intuitive as this may sound, stock photography can be a good option for your startup’s marketing. Here are a few tips on how to safely and effectively use stock photos for your branding and marketing campaigns:

1. Be familiar with different stock photo licenses

One crucial aspect of using stock photos is to be aware of various copyright licensing types to avoid potential legal liabilities. Basically, it’s safe to use the following types of stock licenses:

  • Royalty-free (RF): As the term suggests, it means that the intellectual property (i.e., the image) can be used for free, without paying for royalties. These include:
    • Public domain licenses: No rights reserved; the property can be used without the owner’s permission.
    • Creative commons licenses: Some rights reserved; the property may be used as per the rules set by the copyright owner (usually in the form of attributions).
  • Rights managed: The property can be used on a pay-per-use basis (for example, photos from Getty Images). There may also be certain limitations, such as the specific use, period of time, geographic location, etc.
2. Know where to safely find stock images

On a related point to tip #1, it’s important to always use official stock image sites to be on the safe side and not just use Google to search for images (despite Google having a filter to help you find certain licenses). Here are some websites where you can safely find high-quality stock images:

Others official stock images sites that have a good collection of royalty-free/CC0 license images:

3. Pick stock photos that best fit your brand

As with any marketing strategy, the key to choosing good stock photos is relevancy. Ask yourself:

  • Does this photo reflect our brand message?
  • Does it align with our brand image?
  • Is it relevant to our business and our advertising goal?

A few other things to avoid as well:

  • As much as possible, don’t use overly popular stock photos. One way to find this out is to use TinEye, where you can search where particular images appear online.
  • Be careful with the “accuracy” of the imagery. Bad stock photos can ultimately drive people away from your brand as it can muddle up your brand message, as well as your reputation.
    • Example: A stock photo showing a man using a stethoscope on a laptop is a good example of a bad stock photo. It’s funny, but it can also lead people to think that you don’t have a sound understanding of your job, especially when you’re in tech.
4. Creatively modify/edit your stock photos

Continuing from the previous point, it’s also a good idea to creatively modify your stock photos to make it more relevant to your brand—that is, if the license of that particular photo allows for modifications.

A few things you can safely edit:

  • Overlay text or graphics
  • Make tonal edits (filters) to match your branding
  • Crop the image or reposition elements
5. Mix stock photos with custom/professionally done photography

Essentially, it’s not good advice to use stock photos for everything. A rule of thumb is to use custom or professionally done photos as your primary image (e.g., website hero page, social media profile photos, etc.) and stock photos as secondary images.

Instead of using stock photos that show human emotions, it’s best to have your own custom images showing the faces of the people behind your brand to make it more authentic. You can reserve stock photos for more generic uses, such as for photo carousels and social media posts.

Make your marketing images stand out

Visual content is essential to drive traffic and to stir engagement for your marketing campaigns. While stock images are cheaper and can save you time and resources, they can still only do so much.

If you’re ready to take the leap or have the budget for professional photography, Ilfusion has the services to help you make your marketing images stand out. Contact us at 888-420-5115, or send us an email at creative@ilfusion.com to get started!

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