How to Use Stock Images

If you’re doing business today, creating content for your social media presence is likely an ongoing endeavour. And it’s either your favourite project or your least favourite task.

Either way, you’re dealing with three prongs:

  • Knowing what your audience needs to hear
  • Writing engaging content
  • Choosing fabulous photos

Wanna know a secret? You don’t have to be a photographer to create excellent Instagram content.

I repeat: you don’t have to be a photographer to create excellent content on the photo-based social media platform!

Yes, photography is a necessary skill if you’re a lifestyle influencer or a travel blogger (or, say, a photographer!) but for many businesses all you need is a few essential photography tips and a collection of stock images.

As a photographer, I have heard how often entrepreneurs shun the idea of using stock photography to market their business and I’ve been shocked at the reticence.

Why spend time and effort on something you dislike (or aren’t good at) when you could instead be focusing your efforts on what only you can do?

Outsourcing is vital to a successful, thriving business and using stock photography (or hiring a photographer to create content for you) is just another form of time-saving outsourcing.

We talk about outsourcing more in our course.

How to Price Your Work

In sum: focus on what you do best.

  • If photography isn’t what you do best, then don’t waste your time! Use stock images!
  • If you forget to take photos at the client coffee date, find a stock photo of a coffee cup and use that instead
  • If you aren’t awake early enough to photograph the sunrise, find a stock photo
  • If you’re talking about an emotion or feeling, find a stock photo for that content

How to use Stock Images

Do: Use stock images to showcase high-quality images without requiring photography skills

Did you hear me? Your Instagram feed can look beautiful, you don’t have to take the photos, and the real gem will be your riveting content.

If you don’t love taking photos, then don’t. Take advantage of someone else’s skill and use stock images.

Don’t: Use stock images to portray an inauthentic or false persona

This is shady and shouldn’t be done.

Ask yourself: could I have been in a position to take this photo? If so, great! Use the stock photo. If, however, you’re showcasing a stock photo of Fiji while pretending to be in Fiji when, in reality, you’re in Vancouver? Don’t do it.

Do: Choose legal stock images

While you may think that photos are expensive to purchase and legally use, I am here to console you, many stock image sites are inexpensive or free.

For example, you can download ten free stock images from us today and we release new free images regularly, too! Or, you can subscribe to a service such as Shutterstock that allows you monthly images for unlimited use.

Don’t: Download random images from the Internet

Grabbing images from a Google search or from other websites for use on your website or social media platform without permission from the photographer is stealing. Just don’t do it.

Do: Be authentic

You can still use your own photos (especially of yourself, your product, your travels) even if you choose to include stock images in your social media strategy.

  • Add the selfie if that fits your brand
  • Include a photo of your backyard sunset if you want to
  • Incorporate the stock images to fill in the gaps

Don’t: Be overwhelmed

While there are approximately a bazillion stock images available for use, don’t let analysis paralysis get in the way of making your social media strategy easier.

To start, choose one category of photo (“coffee”) or emotion in photo (“love”) to begin browsing and use that parameter to narrow the field and only look at relevant photos.

You may only need a couple of stock images, or maybe you decide to subscribe to a plan. Either way, embrace the joy! 

Using stock images allow you to focus on what you do best: create your product, write your content, and engage with your audience.

Are you afraid to price your work?

I very distinctly remember it: the moment I was first asked to be the photographer at a wedding. I remember where I was (my very first apartment, packed boxes still stacked askew) and who I was with (my sister) and what we were doing (picking a DVD—yes, a DVDto watch for our evening movie night). When the email arrived, my brain pulsed with alternating currents of immense excitement and intense dread and gut-wrenching fear.

Are you afraid to price your work?

While the joy of turning my very casual hobby into a paid gig ultimately conquered the fear of failing that first client, the haphazard creation of that first quote ultimately defined the next few years of my attempts at being a photography business.

Why would someone pay me for this? I’ll charge a little less since I’m not professional yet.

What if I can’t deliver a product as good as the next artist? I guess I’ll take a little bit off the cost to hedge my bets?

How much time will this actually take me? I’ll charge a little more than minimum wage and hope the math works out?

I guess since I really love what I do, I might as well not charge very much. I would do it for free, wouldn’t I?

If you are afraid to price your work: you are not alone.  As I’ve chatted with fellow artists and like-minded creative entrepreneurs, I’ve learned that this fear of money often equals (or surpasses!) the stereotypical fears of failure and risks and mediocrity that we so often hear cited. (Entrepreneur Magazine, for example, lists the seven fears all entreprenreurs must conquer and those stereotypical entrepreneurs don’t always have the same emotional investment in their endeavors that an artist does!)

When I finished photographing and editing those first weddings, I didn’t even make minimum wage.  While the experience was valuable and my portfolio was happy, that was not a sustainable course. Maybe you relate?

In order to conquer the fear of money and to avoid being afraid to price your work, you need to stop thinking like an artist and start thinking like an entrepreneur. While your art is rooted in creativity your prices need to be rooted in science. 

Stop thinking like an artist and start thinking like an entrepreneur.

First, you need to remember that you are valuable. The time and energy and effort you will spend creating the art for your custom is worth something, yes, but – almost more than that – the time and energy you spent becoming the artist you are is to be similarly prized. A task might only take you thirty minutes to do now, but it took you thousands of hours to gain the skill and efficiency needed!  Don’t forget that you are valuable.

Second, you have to know your costs. As artists, we don’t like to learn acronyms like “CODB” that get bandied around by accountants and leave us wiping away a cold sweat. It’s much easier to just focus on choosing color schemes than factoring how much it costs us to be and stay in business (hint: that’s what CODB is!). But you can’t just know some of the costs, you need to factor all the costs. My first wedding gig, for example, ignored the time and gas I would spend travelling out of town for the wedding, the food I would need to eat along the way, and the extra gear I ended up purchasing to be able to serve my clients well.

Knowledge is power when conquering your fears. Maybe you remember the childhood fear of monsters under your bed at midnight? Once your parents turned on the light and handed you a flashlight and knelt next to you to look under the bed and see the absence of monsters, the fear went away. Staring fear in the face worked as a child overcoming the monsters just like staring fear in the face works as a creative entrepreneur trying to avoid the fear of pricing your work.

To confidently price your work, you need to know how to factor your costs and value your time. That’s where our course “How to Price Your Work” steps in. We will walk you through exactly what you need to include in your CODB and exactly how to turn that CODB into a unit price. When you’re done, you’ll have a spreadsheet doing the work for you and spitting out a price in black-and-white to ensure you can confidently and objectively quote your prospective customer a price.

How to Price Your Work

If you cringe when you hear terms like “cost of doing business” and “cash flow” and “bookkeeping”, you are a  completely normal creative entrepreneur.  If you scramble at the end of every tax year to scrounge up enough information to make it through the paperwork, you might be a completely stressed creative entrepreneur.  If you have no idea what to charge for your services and cringe whenever you put words to that number, we’re pretty sure your world will be rocked by this fifteen minute video course.

PLUS, click here to access the FREE download we have for you. Hint: it’s an accounting tool that will help you remove the emotion from your pricing and allow you to confidently share your prices without fear.

Take Better Instagram Photos

How to Take Better Instagram Photos

Have you ever looked at someone’s Instagram feed and bemoaned your inability to take such beautiful photos on your cell phone?

Have you ever thought about buying a “real camera” just for your Instagram feed but aren’t sure you know enough about a camera to reap the benefit of it?

Have you ever wished you had more photography skill so that you could showcase your product and life in a more beautiful way?

Welcome. I’m so glad you’re here.

Tools for Better Instagram Photos

You don’t need a fancy camera in order to take better Instagram photos. In fact, the best camera is going to be the one in your hand; whether that’s a DSLR or an iPhone, a camera is useless unless you’re using.

While I did take all these photos with my DSLR (I’m a photographer, after all): each of the photos being taken will be used on a real-life Instagram feed. Yes, that’s right: you don’t need a fancy camera in order to have excellent photos for your feed.

The easiest way to take better Instagram photos is to learn to use your cell phone camera. Remember: you’re smarter than your camera so the more you control the camera and tell it what you want to photograph, the better your photos will be.

(Pro Tip: Tap on the screen to indicate where to focus and then most cameras, even those a few years old will let you adjust your the brightness of your image! )

Lighting for Better Instagram Photos

The best photos will be taken with natural, diffused light.  Sounds intimidating? It’s not. Take your photos in front of a large window (or sliding glass door) with all other lights turned off and you’ll be able to easily create that soft, effortless light that makes for an excellent photo.

Example: these two photos were taken in exactly the same place and with automatic settings.  The photo on the left is using my sliding glass door as my light source with all living room lights off,  the photo on the right has the living room lights turned on.
Same scenario in the photo below: one photo is yellowed, shadowed, and unflattering.  The other is evenly lit without distracting shadows or yellowing.  One photo has overhead lights on, the other has only the diffused natural light.

  • Remove distractions for better Instagram photos


Only photograph what you want your viewer to see and don’t let your photo distract the viewer from seeing your art.

Change angles to avoid cluttering objects, move unnecessary objects out of the photo, photograph on a solid backdrop.

The easiest way to eliminate distractions? Create a white box! Buy a couple pieces of styrofoam poster board at your local craft store ($2-3 each) and use that as your background. I prop up my poster board pieces on a chair in front of the sliding door for soft light and three-way white space.

Here you can see all these tips in use:

1 – In front of the window
2 – On a whiteboard backdrop
3 – All distracting elements eliminated


Final thought: even if you don’t have a set of white poster board, moving 45 degrees and turning off the overhead lights can make a world of a difference.

How to Take Better Instagram Photos

If you’d like customized help, contact us for a Instagram mentoring session! Chelsea is an excited student whose Instagram game is wildly improved: “The  [instagram] training has given me confidence that I can post consistently and build my brand effectively on social media.”  

If you want confidence online, reach out and let us help!

Don’t Let Social Media Rule Your Life

Do you feel like social media is a life-sucking, time-wasting, all-consuming beast? Do you spend hours scrolling Facebook wondering “how is this helping my business?” Do you wonder why you aren’t growing as fast as that other brand? Do you post regularly on Instagram and then see no benefit to your business?

Social media might feel like it’s ruling your life, but it doesn’t have to. In fact, the power of social media is most effective when it is an extension of who you are and not a definition of what you do.


To use social media well for your business and to see results immediately, try implementing these tips.

1. Ask yourself honestly: “Why am I on social media?”

Some people consume social media while others use social media to accomplish their goals. Yes, scrolling Facebook is a mindless pastime and a nice mid-afternoon break, but it doesn’t usually help you gain traction or business success.

Choose to spend time on social media with purpose. Maybe that means setting a timeline for yourself to avoid over-consuming. Maybe that means only getting on social media to strategically post what you’ve created. Maybe that means focusing on conversation via social media and not just mass distribution of content.

Each time you open a social media application, know why you’re there.

2. Give yourself an actionable, measurable goal.

Do you want to grow followers? Set a target number, start creating strategic content, and take time to interact on potential followers’ accounts. Track your progress and adjust your strategies as necessary.

Do you want to attract clients to your business? Identify your target audience, strategize how you want them to think of your business, and start building content that will inspire them to move from passive followers to active clients.

By implementing measurable, actionable goals and tracking progress religiously, you’ll be able to see movement even when it’s slight. Plus, by carefully watching your momentum you’ll be able to tweak your strategy quickly when you see areas you could improve.

3. Social media starts in real-life.

Social media should be the virtual extension of the real-life world you are crafting. Apply the same principles to your virtual life as you would to your real-life. Welcome people professionally, answer comments and questions promptly, create an online world that mimics your real-life location.

Creating an online presence that showcases your business’ ideals and personality effectively will help ensure that you representing yourself in a way that will attract your real-life client well.

Don’t let social media rule your life. As you spend time online with purpose, it will no longer be a mind-sucking time-warp and will instead allow you to flourish toward your goals.

A well-planned social media strategy will help answer how much effort you need to be putting in online, but will also eliminate the creative-block and posting-panic of last-minute social media posts. Need help creating a social media strategy? We are here for you. Email for more information on a personalized social media strategy.

How to Switch to a Business Instagram Profile

If you’re on Instagram representing a brand or experience or business, then you should switch to a business Instagram account. The End.

Full disclosure, though: I was a nonconformist. Despite implementing a social media strategy on my account, I waited over a year before switching my personal account to a business account. In a series of logical-to-me reasons, I delayed the switch and I regret it.

Switching to an Instagram business account was a simple, seamless process and the benefits have been numerous.

Instagram Business Profiles Means Easier Contact

By having a business account, my prospective clients can call or email me directly from my profile. (If I had a physical location for clients, they could also easily access directions!)  The added touch point means my new client can email me directly from Instagram without all the clicks to get from Instagram to my website to my contact page to the form.

Instagram Business Analytics Are Awesome

I’m not sure how I managed without Instagram Business Analytics.  By switching to an Instagram Business profile, I know how many times my images have been viewed (not just how many times they’ve been “liked”!), a snapshot of who my followers are (men or women? Age range? location?) and which of my posts have been seen the most!  If no other benefit existed, this is why I would recommend switching to Instagram Business.

Create and manage promotions on Instagram

Instagram’s main reason to switch you to a Business Profile is, of course, your newfound ability to create and manage promotions within your profile. By paying for extra visibility, you are able to reach more potential customers through the promotions option.

Auto-Posting is Now an Option

The newest benefit (and possibly the only reason you’ll ever need!) of a Business Profile is the brand-new ability to schedule auto-posting to Instagram from platforms such as Hootsuite and Tailwind.  Batching your instagram post has never been easier!  Businesses and social media managers everywhere have been dreaming of this option and now that it’s here, switching to a Business profile is even more beneficial. Imagine not having to manually post ever again!

How to Switch to an Instagram Business Profile

The actual switch is remarkably easy: visit your profile on the App, click “Edit Profile” and then “Try Instagram Business Tools”.

Truly, it’s that simple.   Instagram will walk you through a few options and a brief tutorial and then you’re done, ready to see analytics and manage promotions and auto-post!

When you made the switch to Instagram Business Profile, what benefit did you notice the most?