Using Stock Photos To Enhance Your Designs: 8 Tips

Stock photos provide an easy and effective way for brands to incorporate eye-catching visuals into their designs and content. Not only do they add visual interest, but using stock photos strategically can also boost your SEO rankings. Studies show that pages with relevant images rank higher in Google search results than those without.[HP1]  Using alt text and keywords in image filenames and captions also helps search engines understand the content better.

According to Relevance, 67% of marketers leverage photos in their content marketing and social media efforts. [HP2] The visual web has made stock photos an invaluable asset for designers and marketers looking to quickly find relevant, high-quality images that resonate with their target audience. In fact, 65% of people are visual learners[HP3], so stock photos allow brands to create more engaging and compelling content.

With the wealth of stock photo options available today, finding and using the right stock images for your brand can be challenging. So, here are eight tips to help you effectively utilize stock photos to enhance your designs and boost their impact.

1. Pay attention to image quality and resolution

Low-quality, grainy, or pixelated stock photos can detract from and diminish the impact of your visual designs. Carefully inspect the resolution, lighting, clarity, and overall technical quality of any stock photo you plan to use. Images that are outdated or technically flawed reflect poorly on your brand.

Also, verify that the stock image license grants you full commercial rights to use the photo as desired. Using stock photos with technical flaws or limited licensing can limit your design capabilities or land you in legal trouble. Selecting premium, professional stock photos with maximum image quality and commercial licensing ensures your designs have maximum visual impact.

2. Choose stock photos relevant to your industry/niche

Ensuring relevance with your niche is vital when selecting stock photos. Take the time to search for images that authentically represent your specific brand identity and industry vertical. For instance, a company in the technology space should use modern stock photos showcasing gadgets, laptops, and other electronics.

A stock photo featuring coders’ programming would reinforce and strengthen what that tech brand stands for. Similarly, a stock photo of a doctor with a patient would suit a healthcare brand more appropriately. Choosing niche-specific stock photos that align with your industry helps reinforce your brand’s specialty and competitive edge.

3. Convey the right emotions and connections

Stock photos provide a powerful way to form emotional connections with your target audience. Consider the exact feelings and emotions you want your visual designs to evoke in viewers. Select stock images that convey the appropriate mood, whether it be joy, trust, excitement, or any other sentiment that resonates with your goals.

For example, an image of a smiling family gathered around a dining table effectively conveys warmth, togetherness, and nostalgia. A stock photo of co-workers collaborating on a project radiates teamwork and innovation. Purposefully choosing stock images that mirror the precise emotions you wish to elicit helps the content create stronger bonds and engagement.

4. Use real people and authentic moments

In most cases, consumers find real, candid stock photos showing authentic moments far more relatable and engaging than staged, overly polished stock photos featuring models. Images that capture genuine emotions and interactions make designs feel more authentic. Search for stock photos that feature real people reacting naturally in everyday settings and situations. Photos of people displaying real joy, disappointment, silliness, or other authentic emotions build stronger connections. Also, consider stock photos showing diversity in age, gender, ethnicity, and background for broader appeal. Choosing genuine, inclusive stock photos allows a wider audience to see themselves reflected in your content.

5. Consider vertical images for social media

With the meteoric rise of visual social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, vertical image and video formats tend to perform far better natively. When selecting stock photos for social posts, consider choosing visually engaging portraits and vertical shots. Stock photos in vertical formats don’t require cropping or other manipulations to fit the dimensions of popular social platforms.

Vertical stock photos allow you to maximize the visual impact while seamlessly integrating with the native feed orientations. Consider shooting product photos, employee spotlights, and other custom images in vertical formats as well for an inherently social-ready visual asset library.

6. Use stock photos to break up text-heavy content

From blog posts to ebooks, stock photos provide a useful design element to break up lengthy blocks of text. Strategically placing relevant, high-quality stock images between sections or paragraphs makes long copy more visually engaging. This improves readability and information retention for readers.

For example, an ebook on leadership could use a stock photo of a team brainstorming between chapters. A long blog post could incorporate a visual of someone reading between sections. Use stock photos to provide visual breathing room and reinforce key messages throughout text-heavy content.

7. Reinforce your value proposition

Reinforce and emphasize your brand’s unique value proposition and strengths through related stock photos. For example, if stellar customer service is a critical competitive advantage, use stock images conveying responsive support and service.

If you pride yourself on premium quality products, incorporate stock photos highlighting pristine craftsmanship and durability. Choose stock images that mirror and spotlight your brand’s differentiating factors to drive them home with audiences. This helps strengthen your positioning in the minds of customers and prospects.

8. Maintain visual consistency with your brand

Using stock photos that match your brand’s overall visual style lends consistency across your content. Consider the color scheme, tone, and overall look of your brand aesthetic. Then, look for stock photos that align with that same style. This helps reinforce brand recognition and recall with audiences as they see your consistent visual identity repeated.

For example, an elegant jewelry brand would want to use refined, sophisticated stock photos across its designs. Consistent use of on-brand stock photos makes your unique visual footprint more memorable.


Stock photos are a vital asset for enhancing visual content and designs. When used strategically, they can boost brand identity, improve SEO, and create engaging experiences for your audience. By following these tips, you can effectively leverage stock photos to deliver visually appealing and impactful designs that align with your brand’s objectives. The key is choosing relevant, high-quality stock images that resonate with your target audience and add value to your content. With the wealth of stock photo options today, you can find and incorporate stunning visuals that bring your designs to life.

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