Marketing Pro-Tip: Use Stock Photos That Don’t Suck

Considering just how much digital content we come in contact with these days, it is startling ineffective the large majority of it actually is. Can you remember the last digital ad that actually grabbed you? Or the last blog post that actually made you feel something?

We use words like “grab” and “feel” because that is what is actually what your content is supposed to be doing. Whether you are putting together a blog post or an Instagram blast, corporate report or shareholder update, the first step to creating visceral content engagement is by choosing stock photos that don't suck.

Unless, of course, stupid stock photos are what you’re looking for, in which case, you’ve navigated to the wrong page entirely.

Primer: The Importance of Choosing Stock Photos That Don't Suck

2 hands holding a thumbs up icon

Copyright 2020 estherm / Photocase, all rights reserved.

There is no business nor endeavour that cannot benefit from a stock photo license, especially if you know where to go. A source of unique, searchable, and licensed visual material is the key to any online campaign or content plan.

Not only does this take a lot of strain off the marketing budget, but it also allows fledgling brands and personalities to rise above the “wall of noise” that is the modern internet – this is especially true for photo-hungry platforms like Instagram. With direct-purchase stock image sites like Photocase, Stock Photo Secrets, and Shutterstock, even brand-new projects can have access to the same expert stock contributors that the “big guys” use.

Making Sure You Use Stock Photos That Don’t Suck

Close up of man holding a magnifying glass

Copyright 2020 AllzweckJack / Photocase, all rights reserved.

No matter where you get your stock digital images from, it doesn’t hurt to know how to “Spot the Suck,” just in case some of that sub-par material has managed to make it past the highly-trained curation experts (yeah, right).

A bonus tip for great marketing: choose the perfect colors! You can do so with the help of our guide to the best color combinations for brands.

Avoid Simple Emotions

Let’s say that you need an image that conveys happiness. Maybe you are trying to sell a product by linking it to the concept of happiness, or maybe you are trying to lighten the mood in an otherwise dreary piece of content.

The LAST thing you want to do in this case is search for stock images with the word “Happiness.” You aren’t going to get a meaningful picture of human joy. You’re going to get a picture of an actor with a creepy smile pinned to their face, and nobody is going to want to look at that.  Hence, the importance of using stock photos that don't suck.

Flawlessness Is NOT Effectiveness

Have you ever noticed how beautiful some stock photos are? We’re talking about those pristine beaches, bleach-white smiles, and perfectly-symmetrical faces? For a long time, these have been some of the hallmarks of stock photography.

Close up of a frog

Copyright 2020 taviphoto / Photocase, all rights reserved.

As it turns out, none of it is as effective as some people think it to be. This is because the average web-browsing consumer will not equate your brand with perfection, but rather, an on-the-nose sense of falseness, insincerity, or downright laziness.

Sometimes, it is the uniqueness and the imperfection of a stock photo that gives it the honest quality that you need to build an immediate sense of trust. Particularly when using photos in social media, authenticity is key.  So, in reality, imperfections may help you avoid the dreaded trap of using stock photos that don't suck.

Therefore, you should try to avoid stock photos that lean too heavily on:

  • Overly-orchestrated poses
  • Exaggerated expressions
  • Unrealistic situationslogo Photocase

Photocase: Authentic Stock Photos for EveryTheme

Vintage photo of man and woman dancing in front of Christmas tree

Copyright 2020 oli_ok / Photocase, all rights reserved.

The reason that bad stock photography has become something of a meme in the modern world is because of how easy it has become to spot. Stock photography has become a joke because it looks like a joke … but that doesn’t have to be the case.

We are such big fans of sites like Photocase is because they have built their entire image library with the goal of creating a different kind of stock library … photos that don't suck and that feel real because they are real. Even weird stock photos that make you look –and think– twice.

The selection at Photocase is a great way to ensure that the content you are putting out into the world has all the life-force and authenticity needed for a great marketing campaign. Learn more about this agency in our Photocase review.

To save buying images, we invite you to use our special Photocase Coupon with 5 free credits and 10% off!

Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.)

Q: What’s the difference in quality between free stock photos and subscription-based stock photos?

A: It doesn’t matter if you are a business owner or cultural influencer … free is almost always better than not free.  Right?

Let’s level here. The fact that we live in a world where we have access to free stock photography gives us at least some hope for the future. After all, not every project is worth dumping our hard earned cash into.

However, there is no question that paid stock image services are able to provide vastly greater selections of stock photos that don't suck than their complementary counterparts. In addition, because they tend to work directly with their contributors, there is far less to worry about in regards to licensing and use restrictions.

Q: How do I make sure my corporate stock photos don’t suck?

A: No matter how much time you have put into that upcoming shareholder presentation, you aren’t going to be instilling any faith in your abilities by settling with dry, outdated, or cliché stock photos. Instead, you’re going to see an entire room full of people roll their eyes at once.

Finding good photos for your business is as easy as aligning yourself with a stock company that has some energy, youth, and creativity up their sleeves. Photocase is a clear favorite for sourcing the types of authentic, engaging photos that don't suck that will help you bring your material to life.

Q: Why are free stock image photos “less safe” than paid stock photos?

A: The world of stock photography is packed with license types, rights disputes, trademark restrictions, and an ongoing list of other exhausting terms that you probably didn’t come here to read about. To be sure, it’s not a topic that most people would enjoy delving into, but the unfortunate truth is that “Free” doesn’t always mean free.

Depending on how you are using the content and what is actually inside of the frame (such as people, brands, or trademarks) you might be on the hook for copyright or trade infringement.

The best way to stay out of trouble is to stick with established and trusted sources for free stock content, like Pixabay, Upsplash, or PikWizard. And no matter where you decide to get your content, be sure to always double-check their license agreement.


Header image: Copyright Miss X/, all rights reserved.

Amos Struck
Amos Struck

Amos Struck, a renowned expert with over two decades in the stock photography industry, is known for his profound expertise in both stock imagery and artificial intelligence (AI). He is the founder of and a driving force behind the innovative AI-driven platform, His pioneering work in visual AI is marked by co-founding Ximilar AI. Amos also established the Microstock Expo Conference, a key event in the stock photography sector. As a regular speaker at major industry conferences like DMLA and a prominent member of CEPIC, he consistently contributes to the industry's growth and evolution through a blend of technological innovation and market insight.

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