STOCK PHOTO GUIDE · PART 1

Stock photos can be a fabulous asset to your marketing and web design projects. They can lend a helpful hand in creating a gorgeous project, but make sure that hand doesn't end up as a crutch where you just grab any old photo. Below are my go-to tips for choosing the right stock photo for YOU.

DON'T -

Go right to the old standards. Pictures of people in business suits jumping, a man pulling his hair out, anyone with a blank white sign.... just don't do it. It's overdone and makes you seems instantly outdated and unoriginal. Plus, they look unnatural, and there's a good chance that people have seen the same (or similar) images elsewhere, which may be bad for your brand depending on what associations they have with these images.

Disregard color. The photo shouldn't be really dark and moody if you're website is mostly pink and yellow. Look for stock photos that have a similar color palette or lightness/darkness to match your project.

Be afraid to edit. Throw that image into Photoshop to crop it, change a color or delete an element that doesn't fit. You don't have to feel limited to what you get when you press download.

DO -

Aim for creativity. You're stock photos should be a curated collection of high-quality photography that doesn't feel phony. Those stock photos with people smiling as they eat their Cheerios scream S-T-O-C-K. No thanks. People want to see modern, relevant, authentic images. Images people can relate to are worth the coveted space on your website or marketing materials.

Refine your search.  Most stock photo sites allow you to filter your search results. Take advantage of these tools to search for the photo that will fit best for your project. Need to overlay text? Look for a photo with a composition that includes copy space. Looking for one person, a group or just an object? You can filter by number of people, too.

Accurately reflect your brand. Asking yourself if the photo makes sense for your brand is the most important element of choosing a good stock photo. If you are a marketing towards women, you likely won't benefit from using a photo of a tattoo-covered biker dude (unless these woman like that sorta thang). Make a rule to choose stock photos in the same style for consistency. Use rules like color palettes, similar lighting, white backgrounds only, etc. Whatever matches your brand style.

Hopefully you feel armed with a stock photo plan of action. Using these tips above, you'll be sure to have a gorgeous and consistent look to your project. Check back for Part 2 of this post series where I'll dive into all my favorite paid (and a few free!) stock photo sites!