6 Proven Tricks for Generation Z Stock Images

Generation Z is the youngest and hottest consumer market to target right now, and also one of the most challenging to reach. 

Integrating technology and visuals natively into their lives, a visual strategy aimed at Gen Zers has to carefully consider the mediums they use, how and why to give them exactly what they need –and they sure know exactly what they want! 

Stock photography, as you probably guessed, is a great aid in producing visually powerful content that hits the target with this demographic, as long as you know what constitutes great Generation Z marketing stock images. 

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Which is what we’ll teach you right now. 

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Who are the Gen Z?

Born between 1997 and 2015, Generation Z succeeds Millennials. They are the first generation born in the Internet era, who do not know of a time when instant, easy access to information wasn’t a thing, mobile phones were not available for all, and digital wasn’t the norm in technology. 

Since the eldest side of Gen Z reached teenage, they have increasingly become a lucrative marketing target. Today more than ever, they are THE target for most businesses and brands: it’s estimated that their buying power is around $44 Billion! 

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As persons and consumers, Gen Z can be defined by these traits: 

  • Pragmatic – Where the Millennial generation that grew up in a booming economy became somewhat coddled idealists, Generation Z came of age in the middle of a global recession and witnessed the struggles of adults around them. As a result, they are financially responsible, money smart, and future-conscious. 
  • Conscious Buyers – They research, compare and make very informed purchases where the best value is not only related to price but to principles, identity, and morals. 
  • Socially progressive – They are the most diverse generation yet, much more accepting and inclusive than the previous Millennials and Baby Boomers altogether, even those on the conservative end. This is highly relevant in women's photography, for example. 
  • Visually demanding – For them, everything is visual and must be instantaneously gratifying. They have little patience and a very short attention span: they’ll judge what they see in less than 8 seconds!

It’s worth noting that as the youngest demographic, their consumer behavior is also in constant study, and marketers might identify more traits as the youngest end of the generation becomes of age, but the above-addressed are the facts we can know as of today. 

That said, let’s take a look at the best-proven strategies to address Gen Z visually!

Tip: Before you start, check out the 5 don't in visual communication you must never fall for! And it's always a good idea to know the secrets of viral content ideas!

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#1. Use Images of Real People (Yes, Stock Images Too)

Gen Z folks are hard to reach marketing-wise because of their remarkable distrust of companies, brands, and obvious advertising. These young adults rely a lot more on their personal research, real experiences, and peer recommendations than they do on celebrity influencer endorsements or professional-styled ads. 

Visually, this means that people that look like they’re trying to sell something (a product or an idea) are a no-go. 

To appeal to Gen Z, you need real people doing real things in an inspiring way. High-converting pictures for this demographic should show unconventionally attractive people in realistic, spontaneous situations. Dreamy scenarios can work in certain contexts, but where it does not clash with realism –i.e., You can have a group of young people care freely walking down a beautiful beach, but a teenager doing homework with a smile on his face, in a perfectly neat bedroom would look staged. 
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Stock photo sites are now large depositories of authentic-styled images that, while carefully produced, appear as realistic and candid as they can be and are still high quality. 

Illustrations are a visually interesting way to visualize people in an authentic and inclusive way. Humaaans is a great option for people's illustrations, with their fully customizable human characters! For more info and alternatives, check our guide to the best stock illustrations.

#2. Be Visually Inclusive in an Organic Way

People 24 years old and under grew up in a global society and in the midst of the movement for acceptance of all lifestyles and identities. Diversity and inclusion aren’t ideals for them, but core values that shaped up their formative years. 

You want photos that show diverse groups of people from multiple backgrounds and in a variety of locations and settings, but the key is it has to feel like a natural integration and not a forced scenario or a highlighted concept. 

Prefer images of people the same age as your target, and adjust the rest to your brand: it could be regionally-focused images or more globalized, for example. There are many stock photo agencies with diverse stock photos that achieve that relaxed, casual inclusion style beautifully. 

#3. Switch to Video (If You Haven’t Yet)

Not only is Gen Zs the most visual-oriented generation yet, but they’re also heavily geared towards video content. Did you know this demographic resorts to YouTube rather than Google when they need to search for something? That’s how video-minded they are. 

Your visual strategy absolutely must include video, especially in a short-content form: mini-films and reels, no longer than a minute in total, for social media sharing (more on this in a moment). But you can also benefit from longer videos for your YouTube channel or even your website.
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The good news is you can rely on stock photo agencies that provide not only great pictures you can stitch to create presentation-like, animated videos —see our guide to stock photos for video use–, but also stock footage. And yes, you will absolutely find the natural, authentic style you need to catch Gen Z's attention in their video libraries. 

#4. Make Short-and-Sweet, Emotional Visual Stories

Remember, Generation Z is known for their short attention span –likened to that of a goldfish– and need for instant gratification. They want everything now, and they won’t stick around if you don’t deliver. Plus, you must factor in their craving for individuality: they do not adopt brand aesthetics, they choose brands that match theirs. 

When it comes to images, visual storytelling is your ace in the sleeve. Tell your audience what your brand stands for, how your product or service can help them, and speak to their feelings through images. 

Videos, especially social network “stories” –bite-size clips of a few seconds long that can be stitched together and last only 24 hrs live– are great for this, but you can also tell a story in just one image: look for photos that invite to “fill in” the context of the scene displayed, that set a clear mood and are relatable. To master this, check our guide to photos for social media!

Stock photo sites make this easier through their curated galleries that focus on moods and emotions, as well as their search tools that let you use emotion-based keywords to find exactly what you’re looking for. 

#5. Use Social Media the Gen Z Way 

We already discussed how crucial visual input is for this segment of the population. And this also translates into their use of social media –which is innate for them–: unsurprisingly, they prefer visual-first platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, and the novel TikTok. 

What’s more relevant for defining your visual marketing is that they jump from channel to channel and use each for very specific purposes:
Instagram for inspirational imagery
-Snapchat and TikTok for fun and entertainment mostly (Snapchat is popular for messaging, too)
-Twitter for quick news updates
-Facebook for when they want the occasional “lengthy” info on something. 
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A Gen Z-focused social media campaign should include beautiful, relatable images, memes or funny photos, emojis, bite-sized videos, and mini-film features, used strategically to give them what they want, when they want it, and where they want it. 

#6. Optimize Images for All Platforms

Gen Z needs Internet access like they need air, and they are used to having it. They also have a variety of devices at their disposal, and they love to use them at their own convenience. Sure, they are known for their dependence on their Smartphones, but the typical Gen Z is checking Instagram on their phone while YouTube is playing on their laptop, and maybe Twitter is still running on their tablet. 

As a brand set to reach out to Generation Z, you must optimize your visuals for all platforms and all devices. Responsive designs are the best wherever possible –like on your website– but the good ole’ resizing and more modern automatic optimization can go a long way into making your graphics and images fit perfectly no matter on what screen they are displayed.
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Here is where you can benefit from our complete list of standard photo sizes for marketing materials!

When it comes to selecting the best images for your brand, color is a major factor that can easily make or break the success of your visual strategy. To make sure you are doing it right, read through our guide for the best color combinations in branding and marketing!

BONUS: Stock Photo Sites with Perfect Generation Z Marketing Stock Images

We told you over and over that you can find just the ideal stock photos for this target audience with no problem, and this wouldn't be Stock Photo Secrets if we send you off without telling you exactly where! These are our recommended agencies with Gen Z-ready stock images:

www.photocase.com homepage

Photocase – Unique Stock Photos

A vibrant image library with highly curated, quirky, and mold-breaking photos that are perfect for young demographics.

www.photocase.com homepage

wwww.shutterstock.com homepage

Shutterstock – Marketing-Ready Imagery

One of the largest libraries with over 230 million images, all with strong commercial value. You'll find variety on multiple topics with younger audiences in mind.

www.Shutterstock.com homepage

www.istockphoto.com homepage

iStock – High-Value Stock Photography

Powered by Getty Images, this site offers you a rich collection that includes both budget-friendly and higher-end, exclusive imagery, with plenty of content appealing to young people.

www.iStock.com homepage

www.adobe.com homepage

Adobe Stock – In-The-Now Creative Pictures

Backed by Adobe, this stock photo service hosts a big selection of super trendy and inspiring photography that works great with Gen Zers.

www.adobe.com homepage

www.shop.stockphotosecrets.com homepage

Stock Photo Secrets – Pocket-Friendly Stock Images

Our very own shop focuses on affordable yet high-quality visuals for small and medium-sized businesses, resulting in the best cost-effective solution for Gen Z marketing images.

www.shop.stockphotosecrets.com homepage

www.gettyimages.com homepage

Getty Images – Exclusive Premium Photos

A prestigious stock photography agency specialized in exclusive and very high-end imagery. They have great Gen Z content, such as their collection from partners Adolescent.

Adolescent > 6 Proven Tricks for Generation Z Stock Images

Marketing for Gen Z: Stock Images Are Up for the Challenge

As you can gather from this article, Generation Z visual marketing is quite a challenge, as this group of people can be very selective and demanding. 

But you can rest assured that the stock photo industry has got your back and is constantly making the freshest, most relatable, and storytelling-worthy images available for you!<

Header image: Copyright by javiindy/Photocase.com, all rights reserved.


Ivanna Attié
Ivanna Attié

I am Content Manager, Researcher, and Author in StockPhotoSecrets.com and Stock Photo Press and its many stock media-oriented publications. I am a passionate communicator with a love for visual imagery and an inexhaustible thirst for knowledge. Lucky enough to enter the wonderful world of stock photography working side-by-side with experienced experts, I am happy to share my research, insights, and advice about image licensing, stock photography offers, and the stock media industry with everyone in the creative community. My background is in Communication and Journalism, and I also love literature and performing arts.

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