Following on from my previous blog post ’15 Great Websites to Download Free Stock Imagery for Commercial Use’ I thought it may be useful to add a short guide to selecting the right stock image. There are so many resources for great stock imagery and with so many options available, it can be hard to settle on the right image. The image you select says a lot about you, your brand or content so it’s important to ensure that it conveys the right message. Below are a few tips to selecting the right image.


Avoid images that look staged

This is a common misstep people make when selecting stock imagery. The enthusiastic business team group high-fiving, a call handler grinning wildly whilst staring straight at the camera or a collection of precisely placed objects all relating to one subject. We’ve all seen these types of images; they litter websites, online news articles and blog posts and serve little purpose other than to undermine the message with their contrived aesthetic. More natural, candid shots should be used to authenticate your message and they should support your piece, not simply decorate it.


Consider Demographic

Who is your message aimed at? Understanding this will really help guide your search to the right image. Think about things such as age, persona, style and income of your audience and try and find an image that talks to them most effectively. This will help enforce the trust associated with your brand.


Consider Use

What are you using the image for? If you intend to use the image as a hero image or plan to place text upon it, avoid images that are too fussy and will cause legibility issues. Macro shots or images with blank space to one side are more appropriate for this purpose. Making sure there is enough of a contrast between your imagery and any graphic or text you wish to place upon it is also important. There’s little point in selecting an image that works in isolation but dwarfs any message placed upon it. Images that accompany blog posts or news articles allow more flexibility but should still be selected carefully.


Consider Lighting

Well compiled material, supported by carefully sourced facts and figures, are at risk of being discredited with shots of people with pale complexions standing in front of a bleached out background. To fully connect with the intended audience, consider the tone of your piece and try and match this accordingly. The images should appear natural and not as if they’ve been taken in a dentist surgery. Shots that make the most of natural lighting will increase the credibility of your piece and will be a lot easier on the eye.


Think of your images as a collection

This may be easier said than done but if you can find images that look as if they have been sourced from the same collection, it will increase the validity of your message. Bring all your images together and view them as a group - do they look like a random collection of images? If so, select your strongest shots and try and replace any that don’t quite fit the overall theme with images that are a better fit. If your content and your imagery all work together in harmony, your piece will be more authentic and you’ll end up with something that feels more rounded and complete.


A couple of other things to consider…

The use of 3d renders or manufactured imagery: If your message is genuine and demands trust, avoid using 3d rendered images or images that have been heavily manipulated. Using a shot that combines photography, overlays and multiple graphic elements can confuse the message it’s there to support.

The use of comedy: There’s no reason why you shouldn’t use an image with an injection of humour, just make sure it still makes sense when combined with the content and that it’s not only you that finds it amusing. If it doesn’t make sense or misses its mark, it could damage the validity of the content it accompanies.


Generally speaking, blog posts and news articles have substantial longevity; should you consider replacing the imagery on a previous post to see if you can improve/update it? Do you have a hero image that doesn’t really communicate your message effectively? Why not begin putting the above tips into practice and take a look at my previous blog post ’15 Great Websites to Download Free Stock Imagery for Commercial Use’. It’s full of useful stock imagery resources which you can use to start building your own stock image library.


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