How to Use Stock Photography in Your Branding

How to leverage stock photography for branding

Photography can very easily be your best or worst friend. When it comes to your campaign or  brand, the images you use can make or break your cause. Finding a unique style that is also well-suited to your purposes is crucial to bringing your overall visuals together to create a truly great looking design. When it comes to finding the photos that will help you accomplish this feat, it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, if you will–in part because of the fact that we modern humans can access millions of incredible images with just the click of a button. Stock photography: endless potential, but also, a lot.

When to use stock photography

On smaller projects with conservative budgets, or when time doesn’t allow for hiring your own photographer, sourcing stock photography is the next best solution. When creating a store of images for social media posts, or in cases where multiple images are required, curating a strong collection of stock images is the best (and often cheapest) option.

One handy thing stock photography allows us to do (albeit slightly off the beaten path) is to source our imagery before anything else. Since it can be challenging to find the right photos for your existing creative, starting with the images and allowing the design to follow suit is sometimes wise. While it may seem a little backward, the simplicity of finding your sourced stock photos first can ultimately save a lot of time (and money). No one wants to approach the end of a project and find they’re stuck with imagery that doesn’t work with their pre-made design elements.

Where to source from

A leap into the world of stock photography can be quite overwhelming: the sheer quantity of images and websites on hand can be extremely difficult to navigate. And choosing the right stock photography for your specific brand or campaign can seem particularly gruelling. It doesn’t help that stock websites are packed with random photos, many of them sorta useless/awful.

There are a few factors to consider when deciding where exactly to acquire your images, the most important being your price range. Prices can vary wildly amongst different sites, and like many things in life, you’re rewarded with lower prices when purchasing a higher quantity of images. Another thing to consider is what the subject matter of the images is, as the selection of curated images on different sites sometimes have a particular flavour. And while a quick Google search will provide you with a ton of websites to explore, the most popular options are typically going to offer the best selection and variety.

Once you’ve found a site that works for you and a photo that will work well for your purposes, the next step is often the hardest: sourcing the rest of the stock images you need and making sure they all work together. One helpful way of accomplishing this is to look through the other photos that same photographer has available. Oftentimes, they have a selection of other photos from the same shoot that work well together and which you can add to your library.

“Branding” your images

When using photography of any kind, it’s important that all the photos have the same visual look and feel. While it’s true there are endless images available online, it can still be challenging to find multiple photos with the same vibe.

If chosen with a particularly keen eye, you may be able to slap your logo onto stock images just as you found them. However, if you really want to own the photos you’ve found and make them look and feel like they were produced just for you, you may want to consider applying a consistent image treatment to each photo. Check out the image treatment we had done for a client (below). We took a generic construction photo and ensured it was uniquely suited to our client.

Stock photography image treatment before and after

Here you can see how the image treatment was applied across all the images, giving the brand a wholly distinct look, in spite of the fact that each photo depicts drastically different content and comes from different sources.

Branded photography image set examples

Is there such thing as FREE photography?

While you’d be hard pressed to find a photographer to shoot photos for you at no cost, there are ways to get high quality visuals without settling for cheap photography. A quick Google search offers plenty of sites where you can find royalty-free stock photos. Most often these sites either have user-uploaded images that are free for use, or they have what is known as a Creative Commons (CC) license. A CC license is a public copyright license that allows for the free distribution of otherwise copyrighted artwork. This is what you want.

It’s worth noting, though, that while you aren’t paying for the images per se, you may end up paying for them with the extra time required to source and edit these images, as it can be hard to find many from a single photo shoot or shot in the same style. Pro tip: websites like and tend to have the most visually similar photos across their respective collections.

While it may not be as easy as having a photographer flip you a .zip folder of perfectly edited images, great stock photography may just be the thing that brings your brand to life, sets you apart you from your competitors, and takes your visuals to the next level.

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