5 Tips To Waste Less Time Finding Stock Photos

Searching the right stock photo for your project can be a cumbersome and time-consuming task. The photo search at a stock agency is one of the most powerful tools you can use when it comes to finding the perfect stock photo. The more you know how to do a proper image search, the easier it will be to filter through hundreds of thousands of image results.

With most agencies today, you will find stock images from every corner of the world right at your fingertips whether it’s the Taj Mahal or Big Ben, or a landscape or urban scene. Most stock agencies stock image collections are now growing into the tens of millions, so finding the perfect match is becoming an even steeper challenge to take on. Time is money in your world, and saving some time and even money on stock photos is probably one of your biggest concerns as a small business owner.

To save you a little time and lots of money we have two affordable subscription plans that will give you access to hundreds of premium stock images on the cheap. Currently, we have our 99club (200 XXL images for $99; only $0.49 per image!) and our Low Volume (600 XXL photos for $199; only $0.33 per image!) subscriptions for heavy stock photo buyers who needs lots of stock per year. Read our Stock Photo Secrets’ Low Volume Review here, or the Stock Photo Secrets’ 99club Review here to learn more. Also, check out our list of the top stock photo models.

Click here to learn more about 99club, or here for our Low Volume subscription.

Top 5 Tips

While finding your match in a stock photo library is the basic step, looking through hundreds of results pages is not what most people would find to be a rewarding task itself. But luckily image search over the last few years has improved dramatically and has made it easier to sort through and find exactly what you’re looking for. It is for this very reason we’ve decided to put together an essential guide of tips that will teach you how to maximize the Stock Photo Secrets’ image search function.

Here are the top five tips on how to search Stock Photo Secrets more efficiently, and get the best images for your project as quickly as possible.

1.) Use multiple keyword search words


When searching for “business people”, you will get an astounding 157,162 results from Stock Photo Secrets.

That is a lot of images to sort through, but maybe you want to find an image of a group of people sitting at a table for a meeting. By entering “business people group meeting table” into the search bar returns only 5,064 results.

You just saved yourself from going through 150,000 more images by being more targeted. By using a specific keyword search you can get a better choice of the images rather than go through hundreds of pages to find what you’re looking for.

Quick Tips for Finding Image Keywords

image keywords

Using as many key terms as possible is important in finding the best results. Each image has a collection of keywords which are helpful in giving you ideas of other keywords to search for.

  1. Open an image by clicking on it
  2. Scan through its keywords
  3. Select or use the keywords to help you find other similar images


Depending on the topic, three to five keywords return the optimum number of results that still offer choice and limit the amount of results you can actually manage to look through before making a decision.

Do you look just for anybody in your people photo search? Or are you looking for an image of a woman, a child, or a senior? While the search term “family generations” provides a choice of more than 12,000 images, being gender specific to look for “grandfather father grandson” cuts your search results down to 1,174 images.

The same goes for locations: A search for “London” at Stock Photo Secrets returns more than 8,000 images to choose from.

But what do you actually want to see? Try to be more specific, like typing in “London Thames Westminster” and you will get only 336 images matching your request.

The more specific you are with your keywords search, the smaller and more targeted your results will be.

3.) Learn to use Advanced Search Options


Most stock agencies are offering Advanced Search options. While these are not always that intuitive to use, they can save you lots of time once you figured out how to make the best use of them. One of the search result features offered by most agencies is the specific search for horizontal/landscape orientation images versus vertical/portrait orientation results. If you know the future purpose and position of the image in your design, in most cases this can cut out a third or more of the images of any initial search result.

Sometimes the best course of action is to start with a broad/general keyword in the image search engines, and then use advanced search filters to whittle down the results to a more perfect and manageable set of stock photos to look at.

Here are some bonus tips that will help you better understand how to use the Stock Photo Secrets image search engine.

Advanced Search Filters

advanced search filters

There are 29 search filters under 5 categories to choose from: number of people, age, gender, composition, and view point. To find where these advanced filters are, there is an arrow like bracket symbol on the left side of your image search screen. By clicking on this arrow bracket the advanced filters will expand out for you to use. The filter section is a collapsible menu you can hide once you’ve found the images you need to get a bigger screen view of your search results.

  • Selecting a filter will automatically apply it to your current search results.
  • To remove it, just reselect ‘Any', or ‘Clear all filters'.
  • You can combine filters from different categories: e.g., Keyword: shop owner; Number of People: one person; Composition: looking at camera

Find images by Relevance, Editor’s View, Age, and Popularity

Find images by Relevance Editors View Age and Popularity

Our RELEVANCE search is an intelligent system that sorts results based on what other designers went on to download after using the same search term. Use this to return the most relevant matches to your search term. (This tool will continue to improve as it gathers more data.)

  • Use the POPULARITY tab to view the most downloaded images within your search.
  • The AGE tab displays search results chronologically, starting with our most recent uploads.
  • Use EDITOR’S VIEW to view results based on our content team’s favourites.

Saving your results

saving your results

Click on the lightbulb icon located below the image to save it to your lightbox. Our lightbox feature is a handy way to organise all your favourite pictures – you can add as many images as you like to a lightbox. *Access your lightbox from the top right of the page.

4.) Exclude terms in your search/Negative Keyword Examples

exclude-some-keywordsSome agencies have the option to “exclude” terms in your search. Sometimes this is part of the Advanced Search options but some offer direct input by either leading the exclusion term with an NOT or with a minus (-) sign.

You want to advertise travel to European cities but think London and Paris are over represented? Well, here is what you need to enter: “Cities Europe NOT London NOT Paris”. As a result, you get a wide choice of images from Prague to Amsterdam, from Madrid to Berlin.

Negative keywords are used in Google Adwords and Google Photo Search, but the same idea can be used for exclusion of certain keywords that you want filtered out of your photo search engines results. For example, if you wanted to find images or vectors of the seasons, but you wanted to exclude fall, winter, and summer, you would put seasons into the search, and place “fall, winter, summer” in the Exclude Keywords box and hit search. The results will come back with images related to Spring.

There may be some search or keyword terms that will help you even more with your projects. We have a helpful list of search term tips to help you get there.

These are some of the lesser-known words that might be helpful getting the exact kind of images you need:

  • With “isolated” or “cutout” you can quickly find images of people or objects on a typical white background that can easily be integrated into designs. Excluding those terms will show you more images in a realistic environment, so this works both ways
  • While “People” is obvious, “nobody” doesn't come to mind so easily if you are looking for an empty office
  • Child“, “Adult“, “Mature Adult“, “Senior” can be used to reduce the search results to an age range
  • “African American” or “Asian” might sound known if you are specifically looking for someone from those ethnicities. “Caucasian” is a lesser known term and can be used to find those people from European descent
  • Copy Space” (or “copyspace”) indicates images where the photographer has left some part of the image blurred or open to allow easy addition of text for an ad
  • “Blur” or “Bokeh” will give you image results of images with blur or unfocused backgrounds
  • “Streak” will give you long exposure images of streaming lights

Photo search saves time and money!

Depending on the agency of your choice, you might find additional ways to cut down the time needed to find the perfect image. Usually, it takes only a few minutes or seconds to get a better understanding how the search engine works.

We are sure these five top tips will help you to reduce the number of search results. Like anything else, the more specific you are, the easier it is to discover exactly what you need.

But using these tips will take hours off your next image search when you are in a hurry. So it’s better to spend a few minutes right now to learn Stock Photo Secrets’ image search than to waste time going through hundreds of thousands of results.

Click here to buy a 99club membership, or click here to buy our Low Volume subscription.

Today, finding stock photos has never been easier, and more affordable!

Amos Struck
Amos Struck

I am a publisher and entrepreneur in the stock imagery field. I focus on providing knowledge and solutions for buyers, contributors and agencies, aiming at contributing to the growth and development of the industry. I am the founder and editor of Stock Photo Press, one of the largest networks of online magazines in the industry. I am the founder of Microstock Expo, the only conference dedicated to the microstock segment. I created several software solutions in stock photography like WordPress plugins. Plus I am a recurrent speaker at Photokina Official Stage, and an industry consultant at StockPhotoInsight. I am passionate about technology, marketing and visual imagery.

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