Images for Social Media: A Complete Walk-Through for First-Timers!

Today we’re explaining to you all about using stock images for social media to grow your business!

Social media marketing –when done right– is a powerful tool to get more people to discover your brand, products, or services. Photos (the perfect photos) play a big part in achieving it. 

So if you are a solopreneur or small business owner, or if you got asked to manage a company’s social media accounts or social media marketing strategy, and you have no idea where to start, we got your back! 

We’ll walk you through this whole thing, from where to find social media images to which ones to select to how to use them wisely. 

If you want to make your life a little easier, try social media templates! ugc content instagram
UGC video reviews, product hauls, and more similar content can be a great addition to your social media marketing strategy. And Billo is a service that makes it easier and faster to get the custom UGC content you need. Try them out!

Shall we? editor

Shutterstock Creative Flow is a great resource to design amazing social media graphics easily. And now you can unlock free access to Creative Flow!

French rustic coffee shop
Copyright 2018 burandt / Photocase, all rights reserved.

Our Fictional Case: The Little Coffee Shop around the Corner

To further clarify who can benefit from this, we are going to imagine there is a coffee shop, a typical cozy, familiar place around the corner, owned by an eager senior lady who is finally realizing her dream of owning her own coffee establishment. (She is the perfect example of what modern senior stock photos are about!)

One day a 30-something patron is snapping selfies on his iPhone —just like a Millennial would do--, and later mentions to the owner he tried to tag the shop in a photo of him having coffee, to share with his friends, and he couldn't because the shop is not on social media.

This sparked interest in the owner, as she saw an opportunity to grow her business. Despite not being a big fan of tech, she does have a personal Facebook account (to share pictures of her family and cute cat videos) and knows how hashtags and other basic social media tools work (she has a Generation Z teen in the family to teach her). So she's now wanting to put the Coffee Shop on Facebook, Instagram, and every other main social network, to give it a go. 

She needs to learn a lot, though, as digital marketing and social media campaigns are a marketer's job and a lot more complex than sharing cat videos, and high-converting images are science on their own.

Luckily for them, and for all of you small business owners and newbies out there, here you will learn it all! 

Before we go on, we highly recommend our awesome guide with 102 Expert Tips for Visual Content Creation, a must-read for eager DIYers like you! Equally relevant, our list of the 5 don'ts in visual communication help you know what not to do! content scheduling

Social Media Lets You Reach Out to Billions of People with Little to No Investment

In case you were not clear why every day more businesses are using social media networks to promote themselves, it’s really this simple: there are around 3.8 Billion people using social media today (according to a study by Finances Online).

Everybody has a smartphone –Android or iPhone– and everyone is a social media user, including your target audience. Imagine the possibilities for growing your business if you can reach out, engage, and get just a small fraction of these people to buy from you! Just remember to make your images mobile-friendly! canva pro content schedule

And you know what the best is? You don’t need to spend a lot of money on this. All the main social media platforms are free to sign up and use for anyone, including businesses. Sure, you can invest in promoting posts, creating ads, and stuff to increase your visibility and reach out to more potential customers, but this expense is nothing compared to other traditional ways to grow your business. And you can also do this organically on your channels, using resources like Instagram stories or Facebook image posts. 

Of course, it’s not as easy as creating an account and posting stuff online. Social media has its own codes and tricks to get users to like you, love you, and share you. 

Images help you nail all this much faster and better than any other resource, that’s why you absolutely must know the secrets of social media images –image creation for social media– if you want to have a strong online presence. 

Why images, you may ask? The shortest answer is: because people love them. That is really the key to it all. 

Images, and photographs, in particular, can catch people’s attention and be remembered by them more than text, video, or any other media you can use. 

Furthermore, color in images can affect the viewer's mood and influence their actions. More on this in our article about color psychology and the best color combinations for marketing. predict

For the longer answer, we can offer you some powerful stats' courtesy of MDG Advertising and Jeff Bullas

  • Two-thirds of the population consider themselves visual learners 
  • Facebook posts with images have 180% more engagement than those without. That’s 20% more engaging than posts with videos, and a huge 325% more engaging than posts with links alone
  • 67% of Internet users judge a product image to decide on a purchase
  • Younger demographics prefer visual-first platforms like Snapchat, YouTube, and Instagram 

Coffee cup with dry flowers
Copyright 2018 VictoriaStoeva / Photocase, all rights reserved.

We think it’s safe to say images are a must-have in any business’ social media channels! 

The Coffee Shop Needs Lots of Images

To make her coffee shop stand out in social media, the owner will definitely need compelling photos. 

Quick snaps of their signature caramel macchiato and yummy cinnamon rolls won’t cut it, although she sure should throw them in.

No, if she's to do this right, she'll need more. Pictures of people having a meeting over coffee, artsy shots of steamy hot coffee mugs with decorated foam, and many other inviting concepts related to relaxing, warming up, and having a nice time.

Have a look at this photo on the right. Wouldn't it be a perfect Instagram image?

Where to Get Photos for Social Media? 

The cheapest and most obvious answer here would be to snap pictures yourself, even with your phone if the camera is good enough.
But here’s the thing: you need really great photos to stand out on social media. Even more so in picture-first sites like Instagram, users are incredibly picky and have really high standards when it comes to images. Post one low-quality photo or even just the wrong photo size, and you’ll lose your chance to lure them into your page. Using photos that don't suck is of the utmost importance.

And there is yet another obstacle: establishing a good social media presence demands you to push lots of new photos on your homepage –and your followers' feeds– all the time. 

So, unless you’re a great amateur iPhonographer and you have lots of free time to take photos… this option isn’t viable. 

Mind you: even if you take upon the task of creating images for social media from scratch yourself, they need to be optimal quality for each platform. If your shared images are smaller or less sharp than ideal, you can always use one of these top 10 image upscalers to enlarge and enhance them!
The Coffee Shop Owner is No Photographer

Running a coffee shop is hard work, and her owner doesn't have the time to shoot photos all day. Add to this that she's not the greatest photographer either. Also, she just can't fork out thousands of dollars for a photo every time she needs a new image as she assumes the big coffee house chains do. 

Luckily for them, and for anyone in a similar boat, there is stock photography! And you know what else? The big coffee house chains use it too!

Stock Photos for Social Media: Professional Images You Can Afford

Stock photography is an awesome resource for anyone who needs professional photos right now and can’t afford photographer rates. Stock images are perfect to use in social media posts! So let’s quickly learn it all about them. 

What is a stock image? Stock images are pictures (photos or digital illustrations) that are already created and ready to be used. They are produced by professionals, and you can buy a license to use them in your work. For more details, read our complete explanation of what are stock images

How do stock photos work? There are stock photo agencies, companies that offer big catalogs of images from multiple artists, and sell you licenses to use them. When you pay for a social media stock photo you get the right to download it, and the agency automatically issues a license for the downloaded file under your name. Simple as that. To further learn about this, check our article on what is a photo agency. 

What is a license? It’s the legal agreement that gives you the right to use any image in a certain number of ways, in exchange for a fee. Most stock photo agencies today work with Royalty Free licenses, which are very flexible and cheap, plus they’re a one-time fee type of deal. Very convenient for those wishing to reduce expenses. Want to learn more? Go to our dedicated post on the benefits of Royalty Free images.

Here's the great news! Pretty much all relevant stock photography agencies include social media usage in their licenses’ accepted uses. 
Woman with laptop phone and coffee
Copyright 2018 criene / Photocase, all rights reserved.
Stock Photos: A Bliss for the Little Coffee Shop
A low-priced stock photo subscription is the perfect solution for the coffee shop owner! It'll give her access to all kinds of image types in high quality, to turn them into compelling Facebook and Instagram posts, even adorn a tweet, or become the thumbnail image of her YouTube channel, why not?

And the best? The stock photo agency includes access to tons of editable social media graphic templates so all she has to do is customize here and there and her visual is ready!

7 Social-Media-Approved Stock Photo Agencies 

If you need help selecting a stock photo provider, here we list 7 great options. All the following agencies are top-quality services and verified they accept social media usage for their pictures. And many of them also have great reverse image search functionality that makes it super easy to find the perfect photo for your channels! Budget-Friendly Social Media Photos

Stockphotos Logo Tight offers royalty-free photography at very affordable prices, with plans and packages tailored for small and medium-sized businesses. 

Ideal if: you have a small budget and want to make the best out of it

Point 3.1.2 of their license agreement states it allows the use of images in social media as well as other online publications and websites: standard license social media > Images for Social Media: A Complete Walk-Through for First-Timers! License Agreement

The library of almost 8 million pictures is sure to have what you need to make your social media images pop up on everyone’s feed!

Photocase: Artsy Pictures for Social Media

photocase logo w > Images for Social Media: A Complete Walk-Through for First-Timers!

Photocase is a German stock photo company focused on out-of-the-box, unconventional imagery that is perfect for catching the eye on any social media platform. And their prices, while a little higher, are still very reasonable. 

Ideal if: you want quirky, unique photos with a greater artistic feel

Point 6 of their license agreement establishes they accept the use in social media content like posts and cover images for various main platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and WhatsApp. 

Photocase License Social Media > Images for Social Media: A Complete Walk-Through for First-Timers!

Photocase's License Agreement

They feature a tightly curated catalog full of Instagram-worthy photos for you to discover!

Shutterstock: Millions of Photos for Social Media

shutterstock logo new offer > Images for Social Media: A Complete Walk-Through for First-Timers!

Shutterstock has one of the largest stock photography collections on the web. It has very low prices and multiple buying options too. 

Ideal if: you need a variety of images on various topics, and you prefer a strongly commercial look

Their royalty-free license specifies in part 1, point 1. a.i, that digital reproductions including on social media are permitted, so you won’t have trouble using these photos in your channels. 

Shutterstock License Social Media > Images for Social Media: A Complete Walk-Through for First-Timers!

Shutterstock's License Agreement

With over 280 million images, all strongly commercial-style, you won’t have issues finding freshly new pictures for your timeline. 

iStock: Exclusive Pictures to Beautify Social Media

istock logo very small > Images for Social Media: A Complete Walk-Through for First-Timers!

iStock is renowned for its large selection of exclusive, high-end images, which they complement with a big pool of budget, yet professional, pictures for everyday needs. With a variety of credit packs and subscriptions available, there is a buying option for everyone. 

Ideal if: you aim for high-end photography but need them to be affordable too

In their content license agreement, point 2 clearly says “Examples of how you can use licensed content include: websites; blog posts; social media; advertisements; marketing campaigns…” so there is no doubt these are ok’d social media images! Additionally, the iStock license is one of the most flexible in the market, so it's a great option for all sorts of projects beyond social media.

iStock License Social Media > Images for Social Media: A Complete Walk-Through for First-Timers!

iStock's License Agreement

Whether it is a unique and high-value photo for a social media ad campaign, or a cool, simple image to enrich your timeline, iStock has it all. 

And right now we have an exclusive iStock discount you won't want to miss: a 25% discount on large credit packs! Buy your choice of packs from 18 credits and up, and save from $42 up to $600 in total!

Get an exclusive 25% discount on your purchase of large credit packs at iStock! This discount applies to packs from 18 credits and up, only.

Adobe Stock: Social Media Photos in Creative Cloud 

adobe stock logo 1 > Images for Social Media: A Complete Walk-Through for First-Timers!

Adobe Stock is a stock photo service owned by Adobe, that works independently as well as fully integrated into the Creative Cloud platform. It’s ideal if you use Photoshop or other Creative Cloud apps to edit your photos before posting them to social media, and it has very reasonable price points.

Ideal if: you like to work with Photoshop CC and other Adobe Creative Cloud applications

Their Standard License highlights tell you that the use in social media as well as in email marketing, mobile ads, and more, are accepted. licensing


Adobe Stock's License Agreement

Adobe Stock has over 60 million files in its catalog and the added functionality with Adobe’s most popular image editing apps makes them a great choice. 

123RF: Affordable Social Media Pictures

123rfnewlogo > Images for Social Media: A Complete Walk-Through for First-Timers!

123RF is a stock photo agency that offers royalty-free images at very affordable price points with multiple plans according to your needs. 

Ideal if: you want high-res photos from a reliable source with multiple pricing options

Their license agreement includes the use of photos on social media platforms, but adds two very important conditions: 

  • You must make sure the platform you’re uploading the image to does not claim ownership of the said image 
  • You must include your logo somewhere on the image, or otherwise use it in a bigger graphic design of your own creation

Following these requirements, you can totally use the pictures on social media channels. 

123RF License Social Media > Images for Social Media: A Complete Walk-Through for First-Timers!

123RF's License Agreement

And having millions of photographs to choose from, we don’t doubt you will find beautiful shots to use! 

Dreamstime: Great Images for Social Media Use

dreamstime logo e1567194341285 > Images for Social Media: A Complete Walk-Through for First-Timers!

Dreamstime has millions of stock images ready to download and use in various ways, and you can buy them with either credit packs or subscription plans. 

Ideal if: you are after professional pictures that are affordable and safe to use

Their license agreement specifically lists social media posts between the many accepted uses for their content, so you are absolutely clear about using them in this way. 

Dreamstime License Social Media > Images for Social Media: A Complete Walk-Through for First-Timers!

Dreamstime's License Agreement

Their collections are full of lovely, current, and professional-looking photos to light up your stories, timelines, and profiles!

Tight on budget? Then have a look at our list of stock photo-free trials to access professional royalty-free images, for free!
Ever wonder what are the most sought-after photos for social media use, theme-wise? Here's a quick overview:
Healthcare – An especially popular one since 2020 for obvious reasons. See the best medical stock photos.
Restaurants – Now shifted towards takeaway and home cooking, food stock photos are highly shareable.
Education – Another theme that reinvented itself to reflect current trends such as virtual learning. Check out our stock photo guidelines for students.
Real estate – An evergreen topic, and here are the best sites to find beautiful real estate pictures.
Financial – Everything crypto is popular in social media right now. And it's strongly connected to business stock images.
Travel – A lot of companies are sharing inspiring images of local traveling and isolated destinations.
Non-profit – Particularly linked to socially relevant causes, from environmental conservation to human rights movements.
Incubators – Innovative startups are highly discussed, too.

7 Free and Easy Image Editors for Social Media Images

An impactful social media visual isn’t one that you simply downloaded from a website (or snapped away), uploaded to a platform, and published. Social media stock photos need a certain level of design and customization –especially branding such as adding your company logo– to them if they are to fulfill their goal. 

If you have no clue on how to edit an image for social media –the coffee shop lady doesn’t!– don’t despair. It’s actually a lot simpler than you’d think, and there are plenty of tools to get it done fast, even if you’re not a consummated graphic designer. 

Some of these solutions are built and owned by the same companies that sell stock photos, and others integrate stock photography libraries into their software, making your life so much easier. 

Here’s our pick of the best free image editors for non-designers: shutterstock create

Shutterstock Create (A tool by Shutterstock Creative Flow)

Available right on Shutterstock’s website, Shutterstock Creative Flow is a platform with multiple AI-powered tools for creatives to design stunning and result-driving visuals. This includes Shutterstock Create, a user-friendly image editor that lets you produce social media images in minutes and without any previous knowledge of graphic design.

Shutterstock Create is equipped with lots of templates for every relevant social media channel and covers a wide array of topics and themes. You may also design with a blank canvas, preset to the right dimensions for your intended social network, as well as one-click resize a design to a different channel's dimensions. You have both free and premium elements to use, such as stock photos, illustrations, and fonts, from Shutterstock's library. Plus, you can now design something and publish it on your social media profiles directly from Create.

Shutterstock Creative Flow has limited functionality in its free-for-all version, but Creative Flow+ (the premium segment) comes with full access to intelligent features. It costs $12.99/mo to use this tool, but great news for Shutterstock clients: it's included FOR FREE with any Shutterstock subscription! If you need a little push to invest in a Shutterstock download plan, this is it, because you can also get your plan at a cut price with our special Shutterstock coupon code!

Even better? You may also enjoy Creative Flow+ and 10 image downloads for a whole month, entirely free of charge, using the Shutterstock free trial!

iStock Editor Sample > Images for Social Media: A Complete Walk-Through for First-Timers!

iStock Editor

iStock Editor is, as you guessed, a web-based editing tool offered by iStock that is free to use for all its customers. You can launch it by selecting “edit this photo” on any iStock image you like. It lets you perform simple edits like cropping –standard sizes for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest are included–, adding text, graphics or logos, and filters. Once you’re done designing you can download the final image and upload it to your favorite networks!

Fotor > Images for Social Media: A Complete Walk-Through for First-Timers!


Fotor is an easy-to-use yet powerful image editing tool for professionals and beginners alike. It offers photo editing and collage making features. It has templates and design canvases for social media that already come in the standard sizes, and it even has a mobile app available to edit on the go. Another extra is that it includes multiple video tutorials to make the best out of their functions. 

Adobe Spark > Images for Social Media: A Complete Walk-Through for First-Timers!Adobe Creative Cloud Express (Adobe Spark)

Adobe Creative Cloud Express (Adobe Spark) is an app developed by Adobe that is available within the Adobe Creative Cloud Express (Adobe Spark) platform both on the web and mobile. It helps you create visually impactful social images in minutes –especially if you’re used to Adobe software– and it includes a free version. Additionally, the same platform has Spark Video, to create short videos in no time. 

RelayThat > Images for Social Media: A Complete Walk-Through for First-Timers!RelayThat

RelayThat is a digital asset management (DAM) tool + design platform with the particularity of being very simple to use for the non-designer. It is packed with a load of preset layouts that you can customize adding your own images and logos, and performing further edits like resizing for social media platforms, zooming in, changing fonts and colors, adding photo filters and effects, and more. This lets you create the perfect social media images that you can download and then upload to your channels. 

canva screenshot > Images for Social Media: A Complete Walk-Through for First-Timers!


Canva is an online design tool especially thought for non-designers. It’s very user-friendly, with clear and easy drag-and-drop features, and packed with templates, images, and graphics to personalize at your discretion. This includes standard sizes for social media images and designs thought for these platforms –like Facebook covers–. You can either upload your own images (stock images too) or use the ones they provide. Some elements are paid, but the free service is quite complete and sufficient to create cool social media pictures.

Check out this complete Adobe Express vs Canva comparison to see which one of these great tools is best for your needs!

Visme > Images for Social Media: A Complete Walk-Through for First-Timers!Visme

Visme is a very round solution for social media images. It provides image editing for various purposes including social media graphics and even offers millions of images to use in them, as well as bonuses that let you add audio and video to your designs for extra visual impact. 

A few more online graphic editors you can find in our article about 19 websites like Canva.

Speaking of design, don't forget to make your images inclusive, ensuring they are accessible to everyone regardless of visual impairments.

Social Media Image Sizes Guide – All Platforms: Instagram, Facebook…

Each social network website has its own standards for images –including image size (pixels), aspect ratios (square images, rectangular, etc.), minimum and maximum file size, file formats such as JPG and PNG, etc.

If you upload pictures bigger than the preset sizes, the final version on the platform will have lost resolution and overall image quality.

How to avoid this? Simple: Do channel-focused optimization by adjusting the photos according to the channel’s standards before uploading! 


  • Facebook profile picture: 360 × 360 pixels; a 1:1 aspect ratio
  • Facebook cover photo: 820 pixels wide x 312 pixels high; a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio
  • Facebook post: 1200 × 1200 pixels; a 1:1 aspect ratio


  • Instagram profile picture: 110 × 110 pixels; a 1:1 aspect ratio
  • Instagram post: 1080 × 1080 pixels; a 1:1 aspect ratio


  • Twitter profile picture: 400 x 400 pixel; a 1:1 square aspect ratio
  • Twitter cover picture: 1500 x 500 pixel
  • Twitter post image: minimum 600 x 335 pixel, ideal 1200 x 675 pixel; a 16:9 HD aspect ratio
  • Twitter card: 1200 x 628 pixel; a 1.91:1 aspect ratio


  • LinkedIn company profile picture: 400 × 400 pixels; a 1:1 aspect ratio
  • LinkedIn company cover photo: 1584 × 396 pixels; a 4:1 aspect ratio
  • LinkedIn post: 1200 × 628 pixels
Check here for a complete guide to standard image sizes in social media, web, print, and more! 

The image editors we listed above all have the capability to optimize graphics for the main social network sites, so many of them will simplify this task for you. 

How to Upload Images to Social Media Platforms

Here we present you the essential steps to put up images on the main social media platforms making sure they look as great as possible. 

Uploading Images to Facebook

To add an image to your Facebook profile and set your Facebook cover photo: 

  • Go to your news feed and click on your name/photo on the top menu
  • Hover over your profile picture or cover image and click to update
  • Choose a photo from your available ones at Facebook or from local storage 
  • Add a frame (optional for profile)
  • Crop the photo (optional for profile)
  • Save changes 

Now to add a photo to your “wall”: 

  • Go to your news feed and click on the “Photo/video” option right below the “Create post” feature. If you’re working on a Facebook business page, select “Upload Photos/Video” 
  • Select the image you want to upload from local storage – you can add multiple photos at once by holding the Ctrl button while clicking on them (on mobile you just tick them) and hit “Open” 
  • If you wish, hit the “edit” button on the photos to use Facebook Editor, which adds filters, stickers, backgrounds, crops, and more
  • Optative steps: Create an album, add a text description (copy), tag people and/or places, select your audience
  • Select to share in your timeline or story, and hit “Post” 

Uploading Images to Instagram

Before reading these instructions, keep in mind you can only upload images to Instagram from mobile. 

To set up a profile picture on Instagram: 

  • Go to your profile and select “Edit profile”
  • Hit “Change profile picture”
  • Choose Library/Gallery and select the image – you may also select to import your Facebook profile picture onto Instagram
  • Hit Ready/Next

To upload images to your timeline: 

  • Hit the plus sign at the bottom of the screen
  • Select Library/Gallery at the bottom of the screen and choose an image 
  • If you wish, use the Instagram editor to add filters or effects, description (copy), and location tag
  • Hit share

To upload images to your stories: 

  • On the Instagram app, slide up anywhere on the screen to open up Library/Gallery
  • Select a photo to upload 
  • If you wish, use the tool buttons to add hand drawings, text, or stickers 
  • Hit “Your story” at the bottom of the screen

Uploading Images to Twitter

To define your Twitter profile photo:

  • Go to your Twitter username on top of the screen, click on it, and select Settings
  • Click on the Profile tab and select “Choose file” 
  • Choose a file and hit Ok/Open
  • Save changes

To add a photo to a Tweet: 

  • Go to the Tweet composing screen and tap on the Image icon
  • Choose an image (or GIF) from local storage
  • If you wish, you may crop, add filters and stickers and tag people on your image, as well adding copy to the image Tweet
  • Hit the “Tweet” button to publish

Uploading Images to Pinterest

To pin an image to your Pinterest board: 

  • Click on the “+” button on the lower right of the screen
  • Select “Upload a pin” from the pop-up menu
  • Click “Drag and drop or click to upload”
  • Choose an image from your computer and hit “Open”
  • If you wish, enter a description to accompany the image, on the appropriate description field
  • Pick a board to pin the image to, or create a new board 
  • Hit “Save” 

5 Bankable Tricks for Social Media Photos: Authenticity, Color …

We keep telling you how important it is to do social media images right. This isn’t just about buying legally safe images, resizing them and correctly uploading them to your channels, but also about picking out the perfect photographs that deliver your message, represent your brand, and connect with your audience, all at once.

Next, we give you five expert tricks to choose the ideal pictures for social media! 

Friends studying over coffee
Copyright 2018 klublu / Photocase, all rights reserved.

Authentic, Authentic, Authentic

There is no question about what photography style you should use: social media is the ultimate realm for authentic images. In fact, it’s where the authentic photography trend originated years ago, through the user-generated photos of everyday people doing everyday things that invaded everyone’s feeds in the early 2000s.

Authentic imagery is still very strong in 2021 photography trends. In social media for business, the key is in turning it up a notch: you want professionally created photographs that look and feel natural, spontaneous, and effortless. There are many subcategories, all must-haves in a visually appealing social media profile: 

Image Ideas for the Little Coffee Shop

What would make for some cool visuals for the coffee shop around the corner to gain followers and customers?

Photos of culturally diverse groups of friends enjoying coffee on an outdoor table. A hipster-styled man sipping coffee from a big mug in a rustic setting. A young woman with a milk foam mustache on her smiling mouth.

Let the inspiration flow!

woman smiling with milk mustache coffee
Copyright 2019 daaarta / Photocase, all rights reserved.

Color Pays Off

There are various ways in which you can exploit the psychology behind color in photography, all the more in instant-consumption images such as social media ones. Through the strategic use of colors, you can catch someone’s attention, deliver a memorable message, and get them to share that message with others. All you have to do is: 

  • Pick only one or two dominant colors, enough to attract the eye but not too busy that it distracts from the message. Want a pro-tip? Pick images where your brand’s main color is present in a key element. For example, if the coffee house’s logo is mainly pink, you want a picture of a coffee cup accompanied by lovely pink macaroons.
  • Go for high contrast, as it’s an easy way to make your visuals pop in everyone’s feed. Black and white is a great option too, as it’s an instant eye-catcher and stands out among a sea of colorful images.
  • Design creative duotones. Use images where a single shape, subject, or element creates a duotone effect against the background, for a minimalist and instant-appealing look.
coffee cup pink macaroons
Copyright 2019 estherm / Photocase, all rights reserved.

Composition and the Good Ol’ Rule of Thirds

Photographers, designers, and even painters and drawing artists learn about this almost on their first day of school. The rule of thirds is a visual composition guideline that invites you to divide the image into thirds both vertically and horizontally, resulting in a grid with nine squares, and then decide where to place the subjects and other elements in your image following this grid. 

The best-performing social media images are those where the focus subject is… non-focused. That’s right: you don’t want an image where the main element is centered, but rather one where it’s a bit out of focus, yet clearly visible. 

coffee cup on table
Copyright 2006 / Photocase, all rights reserved.

Coincidentally, the negative space is super important too. All the “free” space left on a photo becomes a canvas for strategic copy, and where on the picture this copy space is, is also relevant. Again, you don’t want a traditionally centered image with little to no negative space around the subject. You want a wide-open spot somewhere on the frame. 

Social media is the land of the right now. Ten minutes ago is old news, yesterday was ages ago. These platforms are huge trendsetters in terms of business, content marketing, and visuals, so to do them right you must (must!) be up to date with the latest trends. 

  • Our Photography Trends report has the main trends the industry experts identified that will dominate this entire year. Known them, embrace them, and find creative ways to use them
  • This cool list of 10 2020 social media trends by picks up some very interesting strategies to tackle this year across various mediums 
  • Keep an eye on your feeds, as it’s a real-time updated showcase of what is getting shared and liked on each channel predict

Laughter is the Best Viral

Social media is an informal medium, and as such, a lot of people who are on it take it very lightly. It’s the perfect place for humor: people enjoy seeing funny things as well as cute things, and are very inclined to share content that makes them smile or laugh. 

Playful pictures that poke fun at concepts and topics, even original memes you can create from stock photos in connection with your brand and field, are a very good idea. 

Funny Photos for the Coffee Shop
Remember how the coffee shop owner is a fan of cat videos? Well, she happens to be sitting on a social media goldmine and she gets to exploit it now!

Memes of cats to make her customers start the morning with a warm laugh along with their favorite brew, cute and feel-good photos of cats trying to sip coffee from their owner's cup, or of reading corners complete with armchair, book, blanket, hot coffee, and a chubby cat.

cat sniffing coffee cup
Copyright 2020 Aleksandra Suzi / Photocase, all rights reserved.

The sky's the limit here!

Get even more inspired with this great list of 100+ content ideas for social media.

Best Social Media Practices for Business

Building up a strong social media strategy is no walk through the park, but this list of simple tips, we hope, will put you on the right path to achieve it! 

Little Hacks for All Platforms

These are some easy fixes that improve images for any social medium:

Add text to your images – A powerful and as-unique-as-possible quote is one of the best copy resources to trigger shareability and reactions. 

Keep it consistent – In social media for business, you want to have a defined tone that matches your brand image and nurture that consistency across all channels and posts. 

Brand and market subtlety – Don’t shove your logo and slogan in people’s faces all the time, don’t shout out your sales pitch on every post. People want to interact with you at eye level here, and doing so is how you’ll get to them. The best branding strategies are cleverly done through images!

Image Tips for Facebook

The original social network might be a veteran, and might not be the most popular amongst teenagers, but it’s still one of the most relevant platforms out there. Here is how to rule it: 

Choose bright images – Well-lit and clearly composed photos are a win on Facebook. 

Use the human element – Photos that include a body part –such as a hand– interacting with a product tend to do better according to this research by Convince & Convert.

Keep copy brief – The shorter the caption, the better. Facebook photos must shine on their own.

Post once a day – This is the recommended frequency to keep your followers amused. More than twice a day and they tend to find you annoying! 

Image Tips for Instagram

Ah, Instagram. The first social channel that was all about the photos, the one that made everyone feel the next up-and-coming photos. This is how you do it right there: 

Bare images are better – Add as little text to your images as possible, people here are very into photography

Prefer photos with blue and pastel hues and a lot of texture – It’s proven they’re very popular! 

Embrace people's photos – Instagrammers love to see people in everything. Not just their hands, but their faces. 

Storytelling copy – You can go crazier with your captions on this platform, so it’s a great chance to build a good narrative that keeps followers engaged from one post to the next.

Post 3 times a day – This is the minimum required to stay relevant. Instagram is an image-craving monster. 

For more tips, check out our article on the Best Images for Instagram!

Image Tips for Twitter

Twitter is still very much a text-first platform, but even here images can increase the appeal of a Tweet easily if you do it this way: 

Go for bright colors – The pastels that kill it on Instagram will bomb on Twitter, as users here react better to bold, vibrant tones.

Resume long messages in one image – Images with quotes are uber-popular and easier to share. Infographics are also a great idea. Think of Twitter images as a bite-sized version of the full dish your message is.

Do your best with your 140 characters – Don’t cram too much info in a Tweet that already has an image, but do use your available characters wisely to complement visuals.

Post anything between 3 and 30 times a day – That’s your average goal to be someone on Twitter. Tweets have a very short shelf life and many top accounts post new stuff over 100 times a day! 

Image Tips for YouTube

YouTube is a social media platform even bigger than Facebook, and while yes it’s all about videos, many people use images in videos to share on this site. 

For all the details on the best image practices for YouTube, check out our complete guide to images for a video! 

Image Tips for Pinterest

Pinterest has one of the highest conversion rates from all social platforms, so it’s certainly worth your time. To reap benefits, do this: 

Aim for evergreen content – Pins have a longer shelf life so it’s better to create images that won’t go out of date soon. 

Use keywords in the description – This will help people discover your boards and content, and consequently your business. Remember to optimize this copy for Twitter as many shares directly from Pinterest onto that channel.

Use keywords in image file name and label – It happens that Google loves Pinterest photos, so if you do your keywording well, you can have your pins exposed to greater audiences.

Post between 11 and 30 times a day – This is the frequency recommended to keep driving people to your boards and direct them to your website or brand. 

Hey, what about LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is a bit of a different story: while it's very fruitful for lead generation and brand awareness, this is a professional networking platform and many of the tips we gave you don't really apply to it – for example, funny cat photos have no place there.
If you want to boost up your LinkedIn game –and you should!– Make sure to read our guide on how to tackle stock photos for LinkedIn marketing!

Start Posting Cool Social Media Images Today!

Congratulations! You’ve got to the end of our beginner's guide to social media images for businesses, and you now know all you need to know to get started. 

The little coffee shop around the corner is already proudly on every social media channel and posting away. Now it's your turn!

Happy designing! 

Header image copyright: Radu Bercan /, all rights reserved.

Ivanna Attié
Ivanna Attié

I am Content Manager, Researcher, and Author in 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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