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Let’s Talk About Stock: Types of Images To Use in Your Content

Creating a piece of content without pictures is like starting a band without a drummer. Something is missing, and your followers will notice.  

On the flip side, when you do use images, it can increase the reach and engagement of your piece of content in many ways:  

  • Articles with images are seen on average by 94% more people than articles without.  
  • Including a Photo and a video in a press release increases views by over 45%  
  • 60% of consumers are more likely to contact a business when an image shows up in Google local search results.  
  •  Engagement rate on Facebook for photos averages 0.37% where text only is 0.27% (this translates to a 37% higher level of engagement for photos over text)  

So, when it comes down to it, a visual aid will help boost the productivity of your content from creating a better user experience to giving your SEO strategy a boost, and more.   

Yes, images and visual content created in-house tend to perform better. But, we don’t all have teams, studios, budgets, and designers to create every graphic we need from scratch at the drop of a hat. When you don’t have the resources to create custom content, or you’re pushing content out so often that you can justify creating custom graphics for each one, chances are you or your team have turned to stock images.  

Stock images can have a bad rap for looking cheesy and staged – but with the emergence of crowdsourced content platforms with free usage and downloads, it’s a lot easier to find images that fit your brand. Stock images are a part of many companies large and small – but not everyone is choosing images that enhance their brand.   

So, how can you find and update stock images to look great, fit your brand, and catch the eye of your viewers?  

Download our checklist of 30+ ways to promote content here.

Choose the right platform  

Different platforms offer different styles. While some companies are looking for a clean-cut, others may be looking for an edgier look. Choosing the right platform off the bat may save time (and money) on finding the perfect images for your piece of content.  

Pexels and Unsplash both offer images that are free for use and are generated by their community – that means images are a mix of expert and aspiring expert shoots. There is more variability in the quality of the photo, but also more variability in-stock style.   

Traditional platforms like Shutterstock and Adobe stock photos may come with a price tag but are also dependently professional photos. If you know your company only likes to use the traditional and professional style of stock photos, this is the place to start.  

Understand where your image will be seen  

Sometimes, a good crop is all you need. If you’re using an image across platforms, keep the size and dimensions of the image in mind. An image that looks amazing on Pinterest may not have the same effect on Twitter. Considering how an image will crop across all platforms will improve your overall content strategy and save you the headache of trying to force a fit across platforms later.  

It’s also important to consider the content of an image when posting across content platforms. A colorful and abstract image that is the perfect header image to a blog post may come up short as an Instagram post. Will you need to alter the image? Add text? Choose a different photo? Understanding off the bat what it will take to maximize the usage of your image will help you plan.  

Connect the stock photo to the message  

You can only so many times you can use a picture of a person smiling at a computer to indicate “business strategy”. Being a little more creative with the visual interpretation of your content is a great way to catch more eyes and add a bit more variability to your visual brand.   

Lean into puns, expressions, and wordplay you include in your content to extend the reach of relevant images. Harvard Business Review does a great job of this with their studies. They include images that are directly connected to their title, but in an eye-catching way that doesn’t always portray the inside of an office (even though the topics are all business-related).  

Use stock photos of people  

Pictures of people can be a gamechanger for grabbing attention and increasing conversions. Including people in your images is scientifically proven to increase the trustworthiness of your content – so use that to your advantage!   

Leverage human instincts. Strategically using pictures of people holding eye contact can help you direct where you want people to look and navigate. Eye contact will draw the eye to the image (and likely the header connected to it). Choosing images where people look at the content you want to emphasize has also proven to be useful (you see someone intently looking at something, you get curious!).  

Make sure people see themselves in your photos. Finding inclusive images is so important to create a brand that is welcoming and approachable to all people. If someone never sees someone like them in your content, they will have a much harder time relating to your message.   

Not interested in using smiling faces staring at the camera? These cheesier images may come to mind, but there are endless ways to add a human touch to your images without losing an artistic tone. Consider stock images that depict the backs of heads, candid photos, shadows, and silhouettes, or just certain body parts.  

Find modern takes on classic topics  

Writing mostly corporate content? Your office life stock photos don’t need to look like a classic 9-5 with ties, water coolers, and cubicles. A corporate job can now look like so much more, from working from home, casual attire, coffee shop setups, and so much more. Only depicting the traditional office may come off as stuffy and old school. Not only that, it makes the rest of your content seem outdated, even if it is cutting-edge info.   

Using the most modern visuals of what your topic looks like is crucial in communicating your relevance and current expertise.   

Be aware of how your choices impact the moods and actions of your viewers  

You have the power to impact the mood of your viewers, and with great power comes great opportunity!   

Finding stock images with certain lighting or overlays can help set the mood of your content. Darker images may conjure up feelings of fear or uncertainty, but they can also express calming or romantic tones. Bright light can convey happiness and energy. Saturated stock photos will increase the excitement factor, while a lack of saturation can create depth of emotion. Make sure to set the mood that matches the tone of your message.  

Color can also come into play with how people react to your content. Choosing stock images of certain colors can lead to certain actions from your viewers. For example, a study from Georgia Tech looked at over 1 million social images for trends in color relating to images with the highest and lowest engagement. They found that red, purple, and pink stimulate sharing, while green, black, blue, and yellow all impede sharing. Understanding these trends will help you strategically choose the most productive stock photos for your content.  

Don’t be afraid to make alterations  

Don’t like an aspect of a stock photo? There may be an easy fix. Taking a logo off a T-shirt, adding a simple text overlay, or fixing the lighting of a stock photo improves the look of the stock photo and takes it one more step towards being customized content, which for better or worse, people notice.   


The time and energy that goes into creating a truly unique and fantastic content experience will often come back to benefit you ten-fold. Ready to amp up your interactive content strategy? Reach out to our team! 


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