How to Choose the Perfect Images for Marketing and Visual Content

All readers who got to our site looking to buy photos for marketing purposes, raise your hands. That’s most of you and makes sense. After all, visuals are integral for marketing, and most people using the best stock photo sites are after photos they can use for this purpose. In fact, finding just the ideal images for marketing intents is the task that keeps creatives up at night.

In Stock Photo Secrets you can find all the info you need to buy stock photos cheap and maximise your profits. But today we’ll talk about how to make sure you’re buying the photos that will deliver results when used in your marketing designs.

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Photography & Marketing, a Powerful Duo

Let’s start from the beginning. Why is it so important to not only use photos in your marketing visuals but to use the best possible photos?

The key value that photography represents for marketing is basically in its power to capture people’s attention, retain it, direct it, and successfully delivering a convincing message.

Photos can do all this at just one glance, a thing that no other element or resource (like text) can come close to achieve.

The Psychology Behind Visual Marketing

Pretty much every relevant psychologic, anthropologic and marketing research you’ll find agrees that we are a highly visual species, wired to respond more and better to images than to anything else.

More recent studies, like this great infographic by MDG Advertising, show most of us are aware of this:

Almost ⅔ (two thirds) of the population affirms to be visual learners, and it’s proven that adding images to accompany information increases people’s retention of said information in their memory after three days from 10% to 65%.

And this reflects greatly on consumer behaviour, which impacts directly on e-commerce, online business and online marketing:

  • 60% of users said they’re more likely to contact a business if they have an image showing up in search results in addition to their contact info
  • 63% of users considered the product image to be more relevant than a written description
  • 67% of users judged the product image’s quality when deciding on a purchase

It’s clear: if you’re in e-commerce, online business or using internet resources in your marketing efforts (and you better be!), photography will be one main component in your creative process, your strategic plan and your workflow. 

Cue to a major hint for social media, the most recently discovered medium full of marketing opportunities:

Images on Facebook get 20% more engagement than videos and an astonishing 352% more engagement than posts with links only.

As millennials pushed Facebook and Twitter, Gen Z’s are certainly all for visual-first networks like Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube, the new realms for social media marketing. If Instagram for business and Instagram marketing is your main goal when purchasing stock photos, you can’t miss our dedicated guide to the Best Photos for Instagram!

Additionally, our visual-first composition also has effects on online publishing, as

Articles with images get 94% more views

So if you’re into blogging or want to include a blog as part of your marketing strategy, images are not something to overlook. For more detailed info, check our dedicated article on the Best Photos for Blog Posts!

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Choosing the Right Marketing Images for You

We’re clear that you must use awesome photos in your marketing visuals. But what exactly makes a photo “awesome”? Even more, what makes a photo be perfect for your particular purpose?

Here we lay down some pro tips to make sure you are using images that will bring you the results you’re looking for.

1. Speak to Viewer’s Primal Desires

Whether your message is simple or complex, you first need your image to appeal to the public at first glance. You need to catch their eyes and lure them in, interest them in “coming it” to see what you’re offering. And you can do this with a photo, by catering to viewers’ most basic needs and desires.

How? The key is to use images that represent and connect to their primary emotions: longing, curiosity, joy, etc. You want the concept to be not so much about actions or abstract ideas, but about concrete and identifiable emotions or sentiment.

Pro Tip
Many different styles of photos can convey emotion successfully, but none is as effective as lifestyle images, a.k.a photos of people. It’s just so much easier for viewers to identify emotions in their peers, as well as to see themselves in the scenes portrayed when other people are included.

Visual Example – If you’re designing an ad for a luxury yacht rental company, a photo of a beautiful boat surfing the sea under the sun would certainly fit and show the audience what they can get with your service: 

Example of an ok image post promoting a luxury yacht service

(Love this image? Get it right here on Stock Photo Secrets Shop, at a high resolution!)

But, if you use a photo of an attractive looking couple sunbathing on the top of the boat as they casually laugh while holding hands and looking into each other dearly, then viewers will immediately associate your offer with relaxing, love, enjoyment, vacations… and their primal brain will tell them “I want that”. That's your goal right there.

Example of a great image post promoting a luxury yacht rental service

(What a winner, this picture! Want it? Get it right in high-res here on Stock Photo Secrets Shop!)

2. Tie Images to your Brand

A good visual content strategy will always keep brand awareness at North. Be it sales and marketing images, ecommerce product images or visual designs for social media sharing, etc., you must always ensure all your graphics represent your brand cohesively.

How? Think long and deep about the keywords that better define your company, identify the demographics you’re aiming at, and what image you want to project overall: are a serious company? A friendly brand? Are you traditional or innovative? Is your potential client base made up of Gen X’s, Millennials or Gen Z’s? The answers to these questions will guide you, and once you have a concrete list of concepts you want to portray, the style of images to choose should be more obvious.

Pro Tip
Visual storytelling for the win! One of the best ways to create brand awareness and keep your customers/followers engaged with your brand is to implement a visual narrative in your marketing campaigns, across different mediums.

You can use the same models in a sort of visual docu-series, or work with an image-based timeline that goes through seasons, locations and life milestones… just some examples. As storytelling demands you to maintain a direction, it will enforce cohesion as nothing else could.

3. Define a Tone and Goal Through Photos

Photography will help in your marketing efforts not only by defining your brand but also by delivering your intended messages in a clear, straight-forward and much more memorable way. From the actual content of the message to the tone it should use and the response it should provoke, pictures are there to get it done.

How? Start by analysing what you want your design to say. Knowing whether you want to project an image of trustworthiness, fun, friendliness, professionalism, etc., will be your guideline to search for photos that represent your immediate subject (like your field of expertise or the product/service you’re promoting) in a way that transmits precisely the emotions and ideas you intend.

Pro Tip
Finding the right tone for your visual content might sound a lot simpler than it actually is –all the more when the best stock photo websites have catalogues with hundreds of millions of images to surf through–. But the secret is in adding more factors to the final equation. Besides the intended message and immediate goal, consider how you want people to receive and respond to your marketing visual and (very connected to this) the medium in which you will be publishing it.

Visual Example – If you’re designing a visual for a bank or finances company, you likely want to portray them as reliable, experienced and formal because these are the concepts that usually signal a good financial service provider.

A good social media image post to promote bank or finance services

(“Hey, cool image, where do I find it?” Right here, my friend: available in high-res at Stock Photo Secrets Shop)

However, if the graphic is promoting a new loaner program for people under 25 and will be used in a promotional social media post, you may want to tone down the solemnity and add a touch of informality and freshness to appeal to this consumer segment, to make them see themselves in your offer, and fit right in with the social platform vibe.

A cool social media image post promoting a loaner program for young people

(Gotta have this cool, trendy photo? Download it in high-res at Stock Photo Secrets Shop! And why yes, they ARE the couple in the viral “Distracted Boyfriend” meme! Learn more about them –and the marketing potential in using a photo with these models in your campaign– in our coverage of the Stock Photo Origins of your Favourite Memes!)

4. Be Trendy, Be Today

As we preface the upcoming dawn of Web 3.0, our world is increasingly merging digitality and reality, and becoming as visual as fast paced. In this context, consumers want the latest and up-to-date of everything, and that includes images. Photography is marketing’s best friend, but for this friendship to be fruitful, you must always use current, fresh pictures.

How? Stay in the loop! Check out our Photography Trends 2019 Report and make use of many of the other resources the web offers to be informed on what is “hot” in visual content right now. And select the trends and themes that fit within your goals.

Pro Tip
When picking trendy photos for your marketing designs, make sure to include at least one of the pillar concepts of today: diversity (social, cultural, ethnic), technologic life, and humans in connection with nature.

BONUS: Social Media Hot Topics – When you work in your social media marketing strategy, make a habit of checking out trending topics in every platform to identify what people are talking about and where their interest and attention is at every day. Whenever possible, adjust your images and posts to include or relate to these topics (add hashtags!) to ample up your reach to more internauts.  

5. Colour Me Compelling

While there is no consensus on colour theory, the psychology of colour –of which you can learn more in this great article by Entrepreneur–proves they have a direct effect on human perception, and thus they are a very useful element in visual marketing and most of all in branding. Making sure the colours you use fit your brand is crucial for getting customers to like it, remember it and choose it. In your marketing visual content, the use of colour will help you define everything in them, from tone to goal to brand strengthening.

How? Avoid the non-backed-up-by-data affirmations like “green means calm” or “yellow is a happy colour”. Instead, focus on wider and more aesthetically based conclusions about colour. For example, it’s true that warmer colours are a better fit for fun concepts and colder hues are more consistent with serious and professional messages. Purple does invoke sophistication and red does trigger excitement, but the key is in how well your colours match to your brand and the message your visual wants to send out.

Pro Tip
Use colours subtly, do and don’t overdo. If your brand’s main colour is red, doesn’t mean all your ads must have copy text in red fonts. Look for images where the colours you want are included in the composition.

Visual Example – if you’re designing a promo post for a natural juice brand whose image and logo have red as predominant colour, you can use a photo of a young woman on a strawberry field to incorporate the product, the lifestyle element, the topic, and the colour red without being too obvious.

A simple promo image for a natural juice product developed by a company with a predominantly red-colour branding

(Can you taste the quality in this photo? Get it in high-res at Stock Photo Secrets Shop and squeeze its potential out!

6. Stay Unique

A bit obvious, but easier said than done. Originality is essential to strong branding, and visual content is no exception. But, in a world oversaturated with images, ads and graphic designs, standing out visually can be challenging. Photography is certainly the way to go, as it gives you such a wide spectrum of elements to play with, from models to composition, going through style and artistic perspective.

How? Do your research! See what other companies/brands in your space are doing. While you can grab inspiration from what they do that works, you should also take note of their designs to avoid creating something too similar. And always have the best creative minds in your team delve in to come up with one-of-a-kind ideas for visuals and copy.

Pro Tip
The need for uniqueness may at first pull you away from royalty-free stock images. As they’re widely distributed and in theory, anyone (including your competitors) could license them, this could lead to thinking they can’t make for original visual. This is a mistake!

For one, stock photos today are a lot more artistic and intimate than ever before. All you’ve to do is stay away from old-school, generic pictures and you’ll be on the right track.

Even better, you can directly use stock photo agencies that specialise in artsy, rare, quirky photos. Photocase is the best in that, having a tightly curated library packed with unique stock images to choose from!

And then, these are highly editable, high-res photographs, which means great flexibility to change their final look. You can apply filters, modify colour grading, crop, resize, zoom in, add custom graphics and text… the sky’s the limit.

So don’t miss the chance to create awesome visuals in less time and for less money using stock photography!

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Best 5 Image Practices for Social Media Marketing

Social media is THE medium to do visual marketing today. Everything is happening on these platforms, and the main ones rake up billions of active users that you can reach out with your messages and graphics… if you know how to. Here we give you some pieces of advice to tackle your social media marketing strategy using photography.

Define your goals – Social media marketing has multiple applications. The key to do it successfully is to lay out one or a couple of goals for your online social networking efforts –strengthening your online presence, establishing your brand, increasing your customer base, etc.– and centre all your visual content around them. And your goals must be reasonable! Earning a million new followers is a good “shoot to the stars” aspiration, but earning a million new followers in 2019 is an unrealistic target that would do more harm than good. Focus on what you can achieve, and plan to get there.

Master storytelling – Your social media profile is the perfect board to tell your company’s story to the masses, but if you really want them to engage with your brand and services, follow your accounts and ultimately convert, keeping a consistent voice and storyline in your posts is mandatory. When it comes to photos, you don’t need to stick to one style or one theme to achieve visual storytelling. In fact, adding variety and layers of meanings (according to your different goals) makes for a more interesting timeline. The kind of photo and text you’d use to position your brand amongst millennials is not the same kind than the one you’d use to spark a giggle in a Gen Z’s day, and that’s okay. What’s important is to maintain the voice and brand personality across all posts.

Useful Tricks!
– Use an array of photos featuring the same model/s, to create a visual series spanning multiple posts. – Choose one or two pointers to keep across all your images: ethnically diverse models, a particular region or scenery, a defined lens perspective, etc.

Live in the moment – We can’t emphasize enough how crucial it is to be up to date in your visuals, but in social media is a matter of life or death. Okay, maybe not as dramatic, but still an absolute must! Users run away from dated content like it’s the plague. You want the freshest and most trendy photos, and you want to feed new image posts to your timeline and stories at least a couple of times a day –for Instagram for example, the average business must post new images is 3 times daily if they want to stay relevant-.

Useful Trick!
– Check out what the hot topics are for each network this day or this week, and when possible, create a visual post that connects to it (if you can use the trending hashtags, score!).

Balance your image-to-copy ratio – There is a reason we are talking about pictures and not written content in here: images perform better in social media. It’s a very instant-paced medium and most users don’t have time to read large chunks of text. This is even more true for the dominant social networks of the late: Instagram and Snapchat, two highly visual platforms.
Creating image posts with text overlaid is a good way to make sure what you want to say is seen and received. Adding a short and sweet descriptive text to your image posts is also valuable. But let the images be the star of your posts.

Relax the sales pitch – If you want to bore and push Internauts away, then make every content you post a clear ad or have an obvious sales-y tone. Today’s consumers want brands to get real and be personal, approachable and fun.
Of course, you can still create adverts specifically targeted for social networks, but your profiles on these platforms should definitely include content that, while strongly related to your brand, has an ulterior purpose other than selling something. Analyse your brand’s personality to define what kind of content you can share and study your target audience to discover what kind of stuff they're interested in –Funny facts? Valuable info? Insider knowledge?–, then design image posts that present it in an appealing, easy-to-read way.

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3 Expert Clues for Exploiting Stock Photo Agencies for Marketing

If you’re going to be using stock photos to create your marketing’s visual content (and you really should!), you’ll be safest going for any of the listed in our 20+ Best Stock Photo Sites compilation.

These websites not only have amazing, really affordable pictures that are perfect for marketing designs, but also very useful tools and features for marketers to find what they’re looking for faster and easier. Know them!

  • Reverse Image Search – Most big stock photo agencies now include intelligent image recognition technology in their search engines, and they enable a function to find licensable images in their library that are similar to any picture you provide as a parameter. Usually, this function is represented as a little camera icon on their search bar. So if you see an image you love, you can drag and drop it into this search function to see what photos similar to that the agency has. Additionally, some of these advanced search engines also extract keywords from the images you feed into it, giving you a list of terms that you can use as new parameters to narrow down results, and also as an inspiration for your design’s copy!
  • Colour Filter – Most advanced search engines (like top stock photo sites have) include a colour filter that lets you visualize images with only the tones you select from a palette. This is very useful when you’ve already defined which colours to use in your design.
  • Free Test Edit – Most stock photo websites let you download a comp image –a watermarked, lower resolution version of a photo that you can use as a sample– free of charge. This comp image is very editable, so most creatives take advantage of this to test how well would an image fit into their designs before actually spending money in licensing it. What’s even better is that since a while the best stock photo providers offer integrations with popular image editing software and/or their own web-based, simple image editors. And these allow you to test edit any image, and upon deciding to license all your changes will be applied to the final, high-res photo automatically! Adobe Stock is the most noticeable for this (as their whole library is accessible from Creative Cloud applications) but Shutterstock, iStock and Depositphotos have similar functionality and plugins available too.

Take your Visual Marketing to Town with High-Quality Stock Photos

And that's how you choose the best photos for marketing purposes and drive those results home! In all things marketing, advertising and promotion, photography is your all-time best friend.

All you have to do is use it wisely and precisely in connection with the other resources of your toolbox –copy, graphic elements, etc.– to make every marketing effort better and potentially more successful.

That's all from us. Your move!

I am Content Manager, Researcher and Author in Stock Photo Press and its many stock media oriented publications. I am a passioned communicator with a love for visual imagery and an inexhaustible thirst for knowledge. I was lucky to enter the wonderful world of stock photography working side-by-side with experienced experts, and I am happy to share my research, insights and advice about image licensing, stock photography offers and 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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