How to Use Stock Images

If you’re doing business today, creating content for your social media presence is likely an ongoing endeavor 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, and 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.)

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: Using stock images to portrait an inauthentic or false persona is shady and shouldn’t be done. So 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 images from a Google search or from other websites for use on your website or social media platform. That’s 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, and then incorporate the stock images when you need them.

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.

If you feel like social media is ruling your life, check out our tips here.
If you need help taking better Instagram photos, we have a tutorial on that!

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