102 Expert Tips to Create Visual Content with Stock Images

This is our guide with 102 valuable tips and info bits to tackle visual content creation.

Because it's not enough with pretty pictures and punchy lines, oh no. Results-driving visual content is hard to achieve, and this guide makes it much easier.

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New to the visual marketing game? Eager solopreneur? DIY business owner?

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Let's start.

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Why Visual Content? All Must-Know Stats

First things first, let's lay out the reasons why you absolutely have to master visual content creation to improve your business. We have checked the stats in reports by MDG Advertising and Jeff Bullas that better exemplify them. You'll see just how powerful they are:

#1. 93% of all communication is visual

#2. Brain processes image 60,000 times faster than text

#3. 65% of people are visual learners

#4. Visuals increase written content’s appeal by 80%

#5. Posts with images have 180% more engagement

#6. 63% of users think product image is more relevant than the description

#7. 67% of users judged product image when deciding on a purchase

#8. Articles with images get 94% more views

Photographs on table
Copyright 2008 complize / Photocase, all rights reserved.

Images are a high-converting resource for marketing. This makes images and visual content a key element for branding strategies.

All of this not only shows how important it is to use visual content but also how crucial it is to do it right. Here you can learn the don'ts in visual communication to avoid!

The Visual Creation Materials List

Next, every creative process starts with a list of materials needed to produce what you want to produce. In the case of visual content for businesses, these are the absolute basics and the most helpful ones:

#9. Images

The evergreen and ultimate resource for creating visual content are still images –read a thorough explanation of what are stock images right here–. They have the capacity to attract and withhold people’s attention in a way that grants your message will be delivered through them, in a way other resources can’t.
And if you want to learn how to find the ideal images easier, don't miss this guide to unlock the benefits of reverse image search!

There are several types of stills:

Photographer Woman
Copyright by Ingram Image / Stock Photo Secrets

a. Photography

Photographs are number one in terms of communication success because we humans are wired to connect and respond more, faster, and better to images that resemble us and the world around us, and photos do that like nothing else. See examples of what are stock photos used for right here. 

Black and white illustration
Copyright 2020 Patty1971 / photocase.com

b. Illustrations

Illustrations are drawings and visual representations that appeal more to our practical, abstract-thinking side, and they help communicate visually.

c. Vectors

Vectors are a file format rather than a type of image, and one you absolutely need to know about. Vector files (used mostly for illustrations) have the capability to edit individual graphic elements within them and to upsize and downsize them without losing definition. That makes them a great format for design templates, fully customizable designs for things like social media graphics or print materials, that save you time and effort. 

www.shutterstock.com content scheduling

You can see where to find vector images in this article.

Become an expert in vector files and digital illustrations by following our sister site, Vector Guru!

And don't forget that today's world is mobile-first! Check our tricks and tips for mobile-friendly imagery!

#10. Videos

Motion imagery is every day more relevant for marketing and advertising because audiences (especially Internet users and Gen Z’s) require more visual power to be wowed.

There are two main categories:

a. Footage

It’s the motion equivalent of photography. Footage captures our reality and puts it into moving pictures. No other motion imagery format beats it when it comes to grabbing people’s attention.

b. Animations

Man-made (digitally mostly, these days) or computer-generated images animated to create a motion effect. From cute cartoons to complex 3D concepts, animations are a way to communicate through movement.

Learn all about stock video and stock footage on our sister site, Footage Secrets!

Business Icons
Copyright 2020 Ingram Images / Stockphotos.com

#11. Icons

Graphic symbols that represent motives, entities, or actions, be them real or fictional. Icons are extremely useful for business, you can use them for your company logo, for illustrating functions of your product or service, among many possible uses. Check out this great source for icons!

Business Infographic template
Copyright 2020 Ingram Images / Stock Photo Secrets

#12. Infographics

A hybrid that combines text and images in one single visual piece, infographics are great to ensure people understand a topic or matter and retain that understanding longer. Remember, we are all visual learners.

Stock Photo Meme
Copyright 2019 Ingram Images / Stockphotosecrets

#13.  Memes

Never underestimate the power of humor to communicate things! A still image –usually a photo– with humourous captions, memes are a product of our times and a means of communication in themselves (who hasn’t sent and received memes, lately? This is the way Generation Z holds conversations today). And yes, they are applicable to visuals for commercial purposes. Just have a look at the best stock-photo-inspired memes!

stock photo meme image > 102 Expert Tips to Create Visual Content with Stock Images

#14. Screenshots

A super simple visual resource that can go a long way, screenshots are images that capture the content in a determined screen at a certain time. They’re easily created and sometimes they illustrate a concept better than anything else.

#15. Design skills

Creating visuals is not an impossibly difficult task, but it does require a certain level of skill and creativity. The more you have of these two qualities, the easier it’ll be to design mind-blowing graphics for your business.

a. User-friendly, image editing tools for non-designers

You don’t have to be a professional designer in order to grab an image and edit it into a nice graphic with text and your logo, for example. There are many software tools intended for non-designers that, while they still require some computer skills and basic design knowledge, are very simple to use and they deliver good results. Here are some options:

b. Simple design tutorials

A way of learning what you need to learn in order to create visuals is through online graphic design tutorials. Sometimes, the same developers that create an image editing tool also provide a comprehensive guide or tutorial to use it. But there are also many expert designers and design-savvy or enthusiasts out there willing to share their knowledge through their YouTube channels, podcasts, and blogs. See the section “Visual Resources” below to find the best of them!

c. Hiring a graphic designer

If you don’t have the skills to create visuals on your own, and you don’t have the time (or the desire) to learn how to, or if you just don’t have enough time to commit to this task, you can always hire a professional graphic designer. Unless you are one yourself, this is the only way that grants you a top-quality, professional result, too.

Expert Tips to Buy Stock Images (Free Trials, Discounts, Subscriptions …)

They are going to be the key element for most of your designs. So it makes sense you learn to buy stock images wisely from the get-go. Follow the great tips below, and you can also check our list of 7 powerful reasons to buy stock photos.

#16. Define what mediums to cover

Before you spend money in gathering images to use in your designs, it’s important to sit and list exactly what you platforms or placements you’ll need visuals for, and how many of them. This helps to have an estimation of the number of materials to buy.

Amos Struck
  • a. Websites: you likely need some pretty pictures to liven up your homepage. Here is a useful article on how and where to buy images for websites.
  • b. Ads: you won’t catch anyone’s attention without photos
  • c. Promotion: flyers, leaflets, posters, newsletters, what are they without images?
  • d. Presentations: PowerPoint projects are much more appealing if they have photographs
  • e. Social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest… any social network you want to be relevant in, asks for eye-catching photos. We do have a dedicated guide on the best photos for Instagram that you should check out.
  • f. Blog: should you do blogging related to your business, at those posts are going to need lovely images to make them more interesting. Don't miss the best tips to get images for your blogs.
  • g. Merch: if you run the kind of brand that does caps, mugs, t-shirts, and more, yup, imagery is needed to make them. Check this handy article on the top image sources for merchandise and products for resale.
  • h. Stationery: your company’s image is not to be neglected, pictures can help with your stationery’s appeal. Don't miss our article revealing all the secrets of stationery design for business!
  • i. Store or office decoration: if you work the brick-and-mortar way, you’ll want your customers to feel enticed by the environment. Images can do that

#17. How many visuals and how often?

For starters, the medium helps to assess how many designs you must have. Use that guiding number to contrast it with your possibilities, budget-wise.

  • a. Website: Ideally you’ll have at least a handful of high-res photos to create an eye-pleasing homepage and some additional pages
  • b. Ads: At least one image per advert
  • c. Promotional content: One image per design or one image re-edited and resized accordingly for each purpose
  • d. Presentations: Depends entirely on the individual project, you can have slides with multiple images, with a single photo, or combining image and text
  • e. Social media: Instagram calls for at least 3 new entries per day. Facebook is a bit less demanding. However, in all channels, you’ll need a constant flow of visuals
  • f. Blog: At least one picture per post. Posts without any images are bound to fail
  • g. Merch: The minimum would be one image, for one general design
  • h. Stationary: Again, at least one visual
  • i. Decoration: Varies with the size of the placement, from one to a handful of different graphics

#18. Decide on media types and formats

Once you know how many visuals you’ll need and where you’ll use them, the next step is to decide what kind of materials to go for.

a. Photos

Photography is virtually everything in graphic design. It’s very hard to imagine a project or business where you will not need photos. That’s why there are just so many stock photo agencies! Keep in mind that stock photos also make great memes! Here you have a detailed article on how can photos be used in visuals for businesses. 

b. Illustrations

It depends a bit on your field and the tone of your brand, but it’s very likely that you might need illustrations in addition to photos. These too can be found in stock photo agencies, and in vector format that is fully editable without losing its properties. To know more about stock illustrations and where to find them, check out here and for vector illustrations our sister site Vectorguru!

c. Videos

If you want to be seen as a current and pushing business, then you’ll need to include videos in your marketing efforts. Fear not: stock footage and stock video is a thing, and many companies out there offer it. Get more information on this expert article on what is stock footage and how can you use it!

d. Infographics

We told you before these aren’t as widely used as photos or illustrations, but throwing an infographic in your visual storyboard is a great way to explain extensive or complex matters easily and practically. And yes, you may also find infographic templates in stock photo sites, ready to be downloaded and customized with your data.

#19. Define your budget

Now it’s time to think about how much you can/are willing to spend in stock media and tools. Defining a budget is key to avoid wasting time looking at providers and tools that exceed it, and focus on finding the best options within your possibilities.

Low budget? No problem!
If your budget is limited, you needn’t worry. Today there are stock photography agencies, software solutions, and more useful resources that come at very affordable price points –free, even!– without neglecting quality. It’s only a matter of knowing where to look (in the section “Visual Resources” of this very guide, for example).

Amos Struck

#20. Choose the best buying method

Number and type of media files needed and budget defined, move onto selecting a buying method that fits those parameters.

a. Stock photo subscription

If you are ready to really kickstart your business’ visuals, that will mean designs for EVERYTHING: website, social media, adverts, posters, billboards, flyers, shop/office decor, etc. And some of these mediums need for fresh designs periodically or at least every now and then. A stock photo subscription is ideal to ensure access to all the materials for these visuals all the time and at the best possible price. Here is a complete layout of what are stock photo subscriptions. Depending on the volume of downloads you select and the length of your commitment, individual stock photos under a subscription can cost as little as $0,22 cents each! See our Best Deals subsection below for the most convenient subscriptions.

b. On-demand images

Buying images a la carte is simple and makes sense when you only need a handful of photos, and when you don’t want to commit to periodic payments. Agencies offer this via credits or image packs. You can learn more about what are credits here. However, the price-per-image rate tends to be higher with this buying method. Plus, you need to keep in mind most agencies establish a minimum purchase threshold and very few allow for individual image purchase.

#21. Think about the content and style in the images

Before you pick a stock photo agency, the last filter to apply is that of the quality, style, and content the images need to have to meet your criteria. A very handy tip to identify your best matching stock agency!

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Copyright 2019 Photocase.com

a. Niche content

If the topic and/or concept you will be working with is too specific –say, if you need styled stock images to create visuals oriented to women, or modern senior images to promote a service for the elderly, for example– then you are going to need a provider that goes beyond pretty photos of women and girls in order to find what you look for. Either that or going to an agency with a very large library that may include more variety in styled and feminine photos.

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b. Funny pictures

If you’re going for humor in your creative strategy, there are agencies that have just the perfect photos. Learn more about this concept in funny and stupid stock photos!

Woman face ice cream
Copyright 2011 Miss X / Photocase, all rights reserved.

c. Unconventional images

If you hate the “stocky” look in some images and want something radically different, guess what? There are companies selling images that break the stock photo mold.

People in the dark with cell phones
Copyright 2020 hoffi99 / Photocase, all rights reserved.

d. High-value, artistic photos

Besides resolution and size, there is the question of the artistic value in imagery. If your project demands skill shot, unique, artsy photos… you can certainly find them as stock, only you’ll have to go to premium providers with highly curated catalogs. Check out the Visual Resources section to find some good options.

e. Commercially valuable images

For most marketing visuals you require images with strong commercial orientation. And luckily, these can be found at most stock photo companies. What’s more, this is what most of these companies specialize in!

f. Super high res photos

Most stock photo agencies have images in HD quality, suitable for all kinds of professional uses. However, if you are in need of super-high-resolution content you will be sure to find them in premium-level services, be it the high-end collection of a regular agency, or an image bank specializing in super sharp imagery. Some examples where you’d need these incredibly sharp photos?

  • Billboards
  • Wallpapers/ Wall art
  • HD screen projections

g. Small images

If you only need small-sized images you’ll have it much easier as most agencies have them. However, don’t expect to save much money due to their resolution: today most companies charge the same for XL images than for web-size downloads. Where could you use small images?

  • Websites
  • Blog posts’ body photos
  • Social media posts

#22. Finally! Pick a stock photo agency

Once you considered all the above-listed aspects, it’s time to select the ideal stock photo agency, and buying method, to access the materials for graphic designing. Have a look at the useful list we give you on our Visual Resources section below. But if you want more, we have this massive compilation of the top 20+ stock photo sites for you.

And you can also get specs on every relevant agency in our section of stock photo agency reviews.

#23. Take advantage of free trials and freebies

Many professional image banks include a freebies section or a free trial offer, and it’s a very wise move to use them to test the quality of their imagery and their service. Find a list of the best free trials and giveaways in the Visual Resources section.

And don't miss our full list of the best stock photo free trials. 

#24. Be careful with free images!

You may leap onto the possibility of using images you don’t have to pay for, and on the web, you won’t be short of choice for sites offering you exactly that. They promise photos that are good enough quality and free to use. However, these sites don’t commit the resources and expertise stock photo sites to do when it comes to legal verification, so it’s very possible to end up in legal trouble if you happen to use an image that was wrongly waived as free.

More information about this in our article on the 5 dangers of using free images.

#25. Download highest resolution possible

Whatever supplier you go for, a good practice when acquiring stock images is to always download the highest resolution available. Sure it takes up storage space, but more likely than not it will cost you exactly the same as a lower-resolution version, and downsizing is super simple with any image manipulation software. If you download a smaller image and later need it in better quality, you’ll have to download it again. However, if you see yourself in this situation and need a quick solution, one of these 10 image upscalers can save the day!

#26. Keep images stored locally

When you download a photo from an agency, you’re acquiring a Royalty Free license to use said photo in various ways. One of the best features of this license model is that it’s not time-restrictive or project-based, meaning you can use the same image in different designs at different times, all with the same license. To exploit this characteristic, it’s important that you keep your stock photos stored locally and well organized. That way you can access the original file to repurpose it easily.

Visual Resources for Busy Creatives

Next, we give you a list of all the most valuable resources for visual content creation that we love and recommend. There are options for everything and everyone!

Stock Photo Agencies

At stock photo sites, you can buy images, videos, infographics, and more. They provide finished images that are ready to use, legally, at reasonable prices. A win-win for creatives. We have a full compilation with 20+ top agencies, but here is a brief list of the main ones.

#27. Photocase

photocase logo w > 102 Expert Tips to Create Visual Content with Stock Images

Photocase is a German stock photo agency specialized in artsy, unique, and quirky stock photos that are well in tune with current photography trends –see Trends section below for more details–. This company offers a premium-like service, with its tightly curated library and high review standards, with very economical price points.
Ideal for you if: you want high-valued, artistic and unconventional images that do not look like stock, but cost like stock.

See the full Photocase review

#28. Stockphotos.com

Stockphotos Logo Tight

Stockphotos.com is thought for small and medium-sized businesses and individuals. They have high-res photos and vectors in popular themes and styles (plus videos) and offer various unique, annual plans that save you a lot of money while giving you access to a large number of photo downloads.
Ideal for you if: you need lots of photos for your business or project but can’t fork out thousands a year for them.

See the full Stockphotos.com review

#29. Shutterstock

shutterstock logo new offer > 102 Expert Tips to Create Visual Content with Stock Images

Dubbed the stock photo titan, Shutterstock has one of the largest stock photo libraries of the web, with over 200 million images and counting. They offer highly commercial photos and illustrations –additionally videos and music tracks as well– both on-demand and with subscriptions (in fact, they’re the pioneers in stock photo subscriptions) with options for every budget.
Ideal for you if: you require a lot of variety in commercial photos.

See the full Shutterstock review

#30. iStock

istock logo very small > 102 Expert Tips to Create Visual Content with Stock Images

A precursor in the online stock photography industry,iStock is a renowned image bank whose offer is divided into two main options: the Signature collection with exclusive, high-end images, and Essentials selection with commercial, budget imagery (videos available too). They have various subscription plans and a simple credits system for on-demand buying, and they’re one of the few companies where you can buy images by the unit.
Ideal for you if: You are after a mix of everyday images and high-value shots at an affordable cost.

See the full iStock review

#31. Adobe Stock

adobe stock logo 1 > 102 Expert Tips to Create Visual Content with Stock Images

Adobe’s proprietary stock media service, Adobe Stock introduces a huge catalog of photos, illustrations, templates, 3D models, videos, and more, into every designer’s favorite apps from Creative Cloud (i.e Illustrator and the sort). With very reasonable prices in subscriptions and credit packs, it’s a place to get quality visuals without breaking the bank.
Ideal for you if: You work with Adobe Creative Cloud in your design process.

See the full Adobe Stock review

#32. Dreamstime

dreamstime logo e1567194341285 > 102 Expert Tips to Create Visual Content with Stock Images

A well-established stock photo agency, Dreamstime has images for every occasion and plans and prices appealing to all kinds of buyers. They offer photos, vector illustrations, and videos.
Ideal for you if: you want a reliable source of imagery that is cost-effective.

See the full Dreamstime review

#33. 123RF

123rfnewlogo > 102 Expert Tips to Create Visual Content with Stock Images

123RF is a well-known stock photo company with a long history in serving customers with professional-grade photography, illustrations, and more. They provide variety and high-resolution media with royalty-free licenses and multiple buying options.
Ideal for you if You like to have multiple offers to choose from in one provider.

See the full 123RF review

#34. Getty Images


One of the most prestigious companies in the space, Getty Images offers a first-class service in stock photography through a worldwide network of photographers working exclusively for their library. Their prices are higher than other outlets, but their images worth it.
Ideal for you if: You need very high-end imagery and you can afford it.

See the full Getty Images review

Free Trials and Freebies

If you have no budget at all for images, you can always take advantage of these special free deals from professional stock photo services!

#35. Shutterstock Free Trial

Get 10 free image downloads for 30 days, completely free of charge.

Get the Shutterstock Free Trial

Try Shutterstock for 1 Month and get 10 Images for Free! Cancel anytime!

#36. Adobe Stock Free Trial

Download up to 10 images of your choice from Adobe Stock for free during 30 days

Get the Adobe Stock Free Trial 

Get 10 Adobe Stock standard assets with your free trial. Cancel risk-free within the first month.

#37. Dreamstime Free Files

Find a selection of media files including photos, illustrations, and videos to download and use for free

Get Dreamstime Free Files

Free Stock Photo Sites

We warned you before about free images from the web and how dangerous they can be, the legal hassle they could represent. So, of course, it’s best to avoid them altogether. But if you truly can’t afford a paid stock photo bank right now, there are some free image providers that are safer than others.

We have a massive collection with over 27 free stock photo sites, but these are the top ones.

#38. Unsplash

Managed by a professional graphic design company, Unsplash is one of the most popular photography communities and free image platforms today.

#39. Pexels

Based in Germany, Pexels is a free image aggregator with a very serious approach to licensing.

#40. Pixabay

Pixabay is a German free photo site backed by tech professionals and recently acquired by the design tool Canva.

#41. Moose

Owned by a media and UX service company, Moose offers free image cutouts of people and backgrounds to design customized photo compositions.

#42. Picspree

Picspree is a new free stock photo site backed by industry specialist Getty Images, which makes it very serious and reliable.

Best stock photo deals to discover

To make the best out of your investment in paid services, here are some of the best offers and deals in stock photos out there. And if you want more, you should definitely have a look at our Special Offers section!

#43. Club Easy from Stockphotos.com

200 image downloads for one year for only $99. BONUS 100 downloads in your first year of membership. No daily or monthly download limit. Royalty-free license for commercial use. Bonus video downloads and image upscales at no added cost. Exclusive membership discounts in Extended Licenses. See more details and get Club Easy here.

Exclusive Stockphotos.com Coupon with 10 free extra downloads in your subscription!

Subscribe to Stockphotos.com's Club membership today and enjoy a bonus of 10 free image downloads!

#44. Club Ultimate from Stockphotos.com

1,000 downloads of photos and illustrations for one year for the low sum of $299. BONUS 500 downloads in your first year. You know the drill: no daily or monthly restrictions, royalty-free images for commercial purposes. Extra stock videos, image upscales, and vehicle templates included, and additional member's discount for Extended License packs. Check out the specs and buy 299Club here.

You can obtain 10 free extra downloads in your membership with our special Stockphotos.com coupon!

Subscribe to Stockphotos.com's Club membership today and enjoy a bonus of 10 free image downloads!

#45. Photocase Coupon

Buying from Photocase is a wise decision, using our special Photocase coupon code with 5 free credits + 10% off is ever wiser! Use your free credits towards images and enjoy premium imagery at a cut price!

Get 5 FREE Credits and 10% OFF on your first purchase with Photocase.

#46. Shutterstock Coupon

If you go for the stock photo giant, make sure to grab our exclusive Shutterstock Coupon Code with up to 20% off on your purchase of royalty-free images (and videos too!)

Save an additional 15% off on annual image subscriptions at Shutterstock.com.

#47. iStock Promo

When opting for iStock’s exclusive photography, do use our special iStock Promo Code with up to 15% discount in credits and subscriptions!

Don't waste time, and buy your choice of stock videos and stock images at iStock: 15% discount on everything: subscriptions and image packs.

#48. Getty Ultrapacks

If you decided to go for the prestigious Getty Images, you can still spend less than expected if you use the great Getty Images Ultrapacks that save you up to 33% from regular price!

#49. 123RF coupon

To buy images at 123RF, the best deal comes with our unique 123RF coupon code that has up to 20% off on your purchase!

Get 20% off in any credit pack or subscription — valid ONLY FOR NEW customers. The coupon does NOT apply to image packs.

Online Image editors

Once you’ve taken care of an image provider, it’s time to get access to a good image manipulation tool to be able to work with them. And here we list some of the best options.

#50. Adobe Creative Cloud apps

The Adobe design tools are preferred by the majority of designers and creatives worldwide. Now in their Creative Cloud version, Photoshop CC and Illustrator CC are still some of the best editors to work with… all the more if you choose Adobe Stock as your image provider. Learn it all about Adobe Creative Cloud pricing. 

Make sure to buy wisely with the best Adobe Creative Cloud discounts!

#51. Shutterstock Editor Pro

If you work with Shutterstock images, you’ll be pleased to learn they now include Shutterstock Editor Pro, a free, web-based image editor capable of basic editing that is very user-friendly.

#52. iStock Editor

When buying media at iStock you also get access to their proprietary image editing tool. iStock Editor is simple, yet powerful for basic designs.

#53. Canva

Canva is every day more popular as a web-based image editing tool for non-designer. Canva Pro, its premium version, is super simple to use, packed with features, and hosting their own library of images and illustrations at affordable price points, it’s certainly a tool worth considering. See all details of the service in our Canva Pro review.

Don't miss the chance to test it for free with the awesome Canva Pro free trial!

Plus, you can discover this list of sites similar to Canva!

#54. Moose

Moose is an innovative service that offers you to create your custom images from a set of backgrounds, graphic elements, and image cutouts. A good alternative to explore if you’re good at collage.

#55. Tailorbrands

Tailorbrands is an innovative branding service for companies, that lets you design a custom logo (and other branding materials like stationary for example) online and on the fly, for a very affordable price. Learn more about how to buy a company logo with Tailorbrands!

Visual Content Formats and Image Sizes

Before you start designing, it’s important you know what size your final graphic should be, and work the design with that in mind. We have a full guide for standard image sizes, but here are the basics.

#56. Images for web

Digital images such as those used on the web are measured in pixels and each platform and format has its own standards.

#57. Facebook

The pioneer social network has three different image standards according to the different placements they have on their layout.

Profile picture is 360x360px
Cover photo is 820x312px
Post pictures are 1200x1200px

#58. Instagram

The image-first channel that dominates visual trends today has two standard sizes depending on where the image goes in their platform, and they stand out for using a 1:1 aspect ratio, i.e square photos.

Profile picture is 110x110px
Post pictures are 1080x1080px

#59. Twitter

The birdie platform also has three different standard sizes depending on where you are going to use the image on their site, and one of them has two variants.

Profile picture is 200x200px
Cover photo is 1500x500px
Post pictures are either 1024x512px or 520x254px

#60. Images for print

Physical copies of images, or prints, are logically measured in inches.

#61. Postcard

The standard postcard photos have a rectangular dimension.

4×6in or 5×7in

#62. Flyer

There is more variety in this format but the standard sizes are taller than they are wide.

8.5×11in or A4 size

#63. Poster

Poster standard images have to be taller than wider and can be either one of two sizes.

11×14in or 18×25in

When working with stock media for business purposes, there are several legal aspects to know and be on top of. These are the most relevant.

#64. License of use

You must always know and remember that when you download a stock image you’re not actually buying the image, but merely a license to use said image legally.

#65. Copyright/ownership of content

Copyright is the actual ownership of an image (or other intellectual works, for the matter). And with stock media, copyright always remains in possession of the image’s author or creator. Agencies don’t own photos per se, they are middlemen.

#66. Model release/property release

If you will use a photo for commercial purposes, all the rights must be cleared and that includes not only those of the image’s author but also of the people depicted and the private property included. 

#67. Sensitive use

Most stock photo companies include a clause for sensitive use in their license terms. This means you would need to refrain from using their images in content about sensitive topics like politics, religion, adult content, violence, and crime, etc. Or otherwise, contact the agency directly to agree on this type of use. 

More information, in our guide about sensitive use. 

#68. Royalty-Free license do’s

Royalty-Free is a very flexible license and lets you do a lot with your images. You can alter them as much as you want, you can use them without attribution to the author or the agency you got them from, you can include them in visuals for marketing, advertising, promotion, branding, internal projects, and so much more, without time or geographic limitations, oftentimes also in a countless number of designs.

#69. Royalty-Free license don’ts

As flexible as it is, this license comes with some limitations: you cannot resell or gift the images, you cannot make them available just in the same way you downloaded them, you cannot use them in products for resale unless it’s with an Extended license, you cannot use them in any way that brings a negative connotation to the author, the agency or the models depicted.

Want a more detailed look at royalty-free licensing? Check out our breakdown of Shutterstock's license!

#70. Editorial license do’s

Editorial license is very useful for publishers as allows them to use content that could never be cleared for commercial usage (such as photos of celebrities or historical patrimony landmarks). As long as you use the visuals to illustrate a publication, you’re ok.

#71. Editorial license don’ts

The main restriction with editorial content is to use it for commercial purposes. Big, big no. All the other general limitations for a royalty-free license (no reselling, etc.) apply as well.

#72. Rights Managed license do’s

Rights Managed is a custom license where you get the rights needed to cover your intended use and nothing more or less. As long as you use the image in the way you informed you would, you’re fine.

#73. Rights Managed license don’ts

Consequently, using a Rights Managed image in any way that exceeds the original, intended use would be a breach of contract. Additionally, all common restrictions (no reselling, etc.) apply.

#74. Free license

There are many different free use licenses out there that establish the ways in which you can use content without having to pay for it.

a. Creative Commons
b. Public Domain
c. Custom Free License – i.e Pexels License

#75. Using free images do’s

There are usually not many restrictions for free use photos. You can use them commercially, editorially, and for personal projects, oftentimes without even having to credit the author.

#76. Using free images don’ts

The biggest no in using free images is not to right-click-download an image from Google results or anywhere else on the web and use it in your work thinking “if it’s on Google it means it’s free”… because it’s not! Always refrain from using content you don’t know where it comes from or who owns it. Use trusted free photo sites only.

Visual Marketing Strategies to Tackle

Having the resources chosen and at your fingertips, it’s time to master your visual strategy. Here are our best-performing tips.

#77. Visual storytelling

Keeping a consistent narrative across your multiple visuals is a clever way to increase its impact on your audience. People don’t really care for random, isolated graphics no matter how beautiful. But give them a visual storyline to follow, a sense of cohesive timeline in your designs, and you’ll hook them up.

Amos Struck

#78. Shareable content

You want your visuals to be shared. You want people to love them and need to tell a friend about them. To achieve this, make sure to have a few straight-to-the-point graphics that contain a valuable message, in a share-friendly format –think of infographics, images with text overlaid, etc.– and make it super simple for users to share it (in social media channels, for example).

#79. Share what others did

Return the favor by sharing infographics and other relevant content from other players in your field or in related fields. It brings in value for your customer base and helps your networking efforts.

#80. Video presentations

Don’t underestimate the power of video and the good old’ presentation format. A cool, concise and visually appealing presentation can make for a great ad to hang on YouTube or Facebook!

#81. Repost and repurpose content

The life of visual content doesn’t end in publishing it, that’s where it starts truly living! Squeeze the juice out of your designs by reposting them every time they can be relevant again, and also by repurposing images, graphics, templates, and other resources you acquire.

#82. Optimization

As crucial as images are for your business strategy, they are also a very “heavy” resource in terms of bandwidth and storage space. Having too many images on your website or blog post, posting way too big photos to your channels, can make the whole pages load slower and today’s Internauts despise that. So image optimization is a very clever step to take.

Best Design Practices for Visual Communication

There are insider tricks to make truly successful visuals for business. We have a dedicated guide for the perfect images for marketing purposes, and these are our best tips!

#83. Speak to primal desires

If you really want to catch a person’s attention, don’t go around the bushes and aim directly at their core interests.

#84. Link images to your brand

Your brand identity is the cohesion factor in your strategy. Make sure all your visuals are consistent with your brand and the philosophy it represents, i.e don’t have a super sober steel-blue logo and later crowd your social media channels with perky-happy photos in all the colors of the rainbow…

#85. Define tone and goal

Images will be your voice, so you have to define what that voice should be. Are you fun, or serious? Expert, or peer? High-end, or budget? You can’t be everyone, so make sure to be true to yourself. In the same line, you need to establish what you want to achieve with your visuals. To be known? To be shared? To be picked by more customers? It’s important to know what you are working towards, to do it right.

#86. Be up to date

In today’s digital marketing, being outdated is being dead, basically. So you must work hard to be always up to date with the latest, most appealing visual styles.

Amos Struck

#87. Use color wisely

Colour is a powerful visual tool in itself, one that connects with the human psyche subliminally in a very unique way. Use it in your favor by strategically sparkling bits of color in your designs. Learn it all about the best color combinations for marketing

#88. Be original

Nobody likes a copycat and you should always work to be second-to-none. To find unique ways to say what you want to say and create outstanding, one-of-a-kind graphics to say it.

#89. Live in the moment

All marketing strategies work with a timeline, a planned schedule, and goals. But today’s digital world lives in the now. So make sure you do too. Plan, yes. But give yourself room to be at the moment and make impromptu visuals that tap on a special, previously unseen opportunity.

#90. Balance image to copy ratio

Balance is key to everything. Too many images and your audience feels saturated. Not enough images and they find your content dull. So don’t throw Shutterstock’s entire library onto your FB wall, and don’t write essays about each feature of your product either. Find a happy medium and stay there forever.

#91. Don’t be sales-y

We all know the ultimate purpose in this is to improve your business, but hang the salesman blazer down for the time being. People today like to be told things, not to have things being sold to them. So please, don’t pack your Instagram account with kaboom-styled “buy today!” posters, just share lovely images of your products or services adding valuable info every now and then.

There is no better way of creating current visuals that knowing what content in trending in photography and illustrations right now.

Some trends are evergreen, they're long-term popular in the visual world. Some styles are more time-sensitive and can be super hot today, but totally outdated next year. Both types of trends are worth exploring and using in your content, you just have to keep their shelf life in mind when investing in images within those topics.

We have a full report with 49 photography trends 2020, and here are the most relevant ones.

#92. Authenticity

Girl dust powder
© deyangeorgiev / Photocase.com

See more authentic stock images!

#93. Ecology

Hand crushing plastic bottle
©️ Andrea Righetto / Photocase.com

#94. Bright colours

Kids plastic colorful cutlery on a duotone background.
©️ Ingram Images / Stockphotos.com

#95. Unconventional beauty

Portrait of woman with scarf
©️ Nika Akin / Photocase.com

Millennials love unconventional stock photos!

#96.Modern Seniority

Portrait of senior woman
©️ livcool / Photocase.com

See more modern senior images!

#97. Diversity

disabled boy with older sister
©️ Jaren Jai Wicklund / Shutterstock

See more diverse stock photos!

#98. Immersive photography

360 photo of a city
©️ Ingram Images / Stockphotos.com

#99. Nature love

close up of green leafy plant
©️ Thanabodin Jittrong | Dreamstime.com

#100. Retro

Portrait of woman in retro style smiling
©️ ammentorp / 123RF

#101. Minimalist composition

yellow powder wooden spoon purple background
©️ YesPhotographers / Photocase.com

#102. Mobile photography

young girls piggy back
©️ Ingram Images / Stockphotos.com

You Are Now the Master of Visuals

You have everything you need to rock the visual side of your business. All you have to do is get hands down to work and apply these 102 expert tips in the making of your graphics!

And if you have any questions, shoot us in a comment below, we'll be happy to help you out.

Happy designing!

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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