The essentials of using stock photography for your branding
You say 'stock photography' to many people and it will conjure up images of horribly cliché poses, cheesy grins and obviously posed images that you've seen a hundred times before. While hiring a professional photographer to shoot beautiful, carefully considered and on-brand images is the ideal scenario, if you're on a budget it's still possible to create a stunning (and totally cheese-free) design using stock photography - if you know what you're doing. Options, options, options.
To get the best out of stock photography, you need to dedicate a good chunk of time to sitting down and scrolling through the pages of your preferred photo library (we love Fotolia and iStock, but there are plenty of others out there), and simply building a collection of options. Almost all stock photo libraries allow you to download a free watermarked version of their images, so you can build a folder for all of your images to sit in and review them later.
The number one problem with using stock photography is the lack of consistency in style, which makes stock images stick out like a sore thumb. Consider lighting, style and colour when you choose your images, and ruthlessly edit your images until you're happy that the images flow and all 'feel' the same.
What's the story you're trying to communicate? What's the mood? What should people think and feel when they see the image? Your images must reinforce your brand message, or they're pointless. Be confident that each image you choose helps you to tell a story.
What's the slot that your image needs to sit in? Portrait, landscape or square? Make sure you know what size you need before you start searching - and use the search options to narrow results down to the size you need. Consider copy space, too (that's where text or icons are laid over an image) - if you want to style your image to make it more on-brand then make sure there's a good amount of space in the image to allow you to do so. Typically, copy space is either quite light or quite dark, and less busy than the rest of the image, to allow text to really ping out.
A simple fact of stock photography is that it's quite probable that someone, somewhere will use the same image as you. To overcome this, you can crop the images in an unusual way (as long as they still look good, of course!), or consider editing them by applying a filter or styling them with words or graphics to make them more unique to you. Check the licensing agreement to ensure it allows for images to be edited though, as some licenses are more restrictive than others.
I'm working on a project at the moment which requires really beautiful images, but booking a professional photo shoot isn't an option. Sadly the subject isn't one that there's a vast amount of stock images available for, so we're having to think really creatively about images that help tell the story of the brand without being too obvious.
Know when you're beat
Spending time finding exactly the right image can be enormously time consuming. Know when to draw the line and get a professional in - the results will be amazing!
Image credit: image sourced via Unsplash.com