3 steps for using stock photography on social media effectively

Make stock photos work for your brand and look like your own.

January 20, 2021
Social Media
Content Strategy

While every business can benefit from custom brand photography, for most it simply isn’t realistic to produce enough branded photography to keep up with the frequency of social media posts.

When used effectively, stock photos can be a great visual option to accompany your social media content to catch attention and up the professional quality of your branded content.

When used incorrectly, however, stock photography can actually be harmful to your brand if it comes off as inauthentic, inconsistent, or uninspiring. When using stock photos, it’s important to ensure they are: (a) relevant to the content you are posting about; (b) consistent with your brand identity; and © eye-catching and intriguing enough to inspire your audience to read your content and take action.

Follow these simple steps and you’ll be able to tap into an endless supply of stock photography for your social content.

1. Define your brand look.

Your brand has a personality, and that personality should have an established visual aesthetic. A good starting point is to deconstruct your logo (colours used and personality of the font) or any existing brand photography you have. You can also look up other brands in your category you admire to see what kind of photography they use. You can also think of how you want your audience to feel looking at your photos: from inspired or determined, to fashionable or hungry.

Write down a list of characteristics of your brand, and then think of visual traits and subject matter that would work with each characteristic. Here are a couple examples:

A construction company’s brand might be strong, rugged, and precise. The visual aesthetic of photos could include bold contrasts, earthy tones, and include subjects like equipment or construction workers from various perspectives.

A baker’s brand might be more feminine, fun, and appetizing. The visual aesthetic might involve softer contrasts, brighter colours, and, of course, baking supplies.

Your list of visual traits and subject matter can then be used to help you find photos that have a consistent look and feel for your brand. 

2. Search for specifics.

When searching for stock photography (on royalty free sites like Pexels or Unsplash, or paid sites like iStock or Shutterstock), it’s important to use specific search terms so you can find unique photos that suit your brand.

First, search for subject matter that is relevant to your post content. This could include associated objects (a clock to represent time, a trophy to represent a win, an airplane to represent travel, etc.), or demographics of the audience you are speaking to or about (seniors, children, students, healthcare workers, etc.). If photos include people, make sure they appear relatable and authentic—avoid cheesy at all costs (unless you’re trying to make a meme!).

Next, narrow your search results by adding visual search terms, such as your brand colours or photography style. You can also search for different viewpoints (aeriel, point-of-view, close up, etc.) to find photos with interesting perspectives. If you plan to add text to the photo, add “white space” to your search query for photos that have space to accommodate text.

The more specific your search, the more unique and authentic your stock photography will be.

3. Make it your own through modification.

You can always alter your selected stock photos to make them more authentic or give them something extra. You don’t have to be a Photoshop wizard: there are plenty of free photo editing mobile apps that allow you to alter and modify photos with different effects or filters.

For example, you could add a quote from your post content over a photo to highlight a key message. You can also use text and icons to create bold headlines to grab attention. Try using filters or translucent colour overlays to transform a photo to match your brand colours, and add a small logo to make it recognizably yours.

Following the above tips will set you on your way to using stock photography on social media that effectively matches your brand aesthetic. If this article has helped you, tag @ProlexMedia on Instagram and show us—we’d love to see what you’ve done!

While stock photography is a great resource, nothing beats having your own custom brand photography. From products to portraits, Prolex Media will get the shots you need to captivate your audience with emotion and meaning. Contact us today to set up your shoot.

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