You know what stock images are and you’ve decided to download a few but you aren’t quite sure which ones to choose. There are tons of them, but how can you use stock images effectively? Let’s find out.

The Dos and Don’ts: When to Use Stock Images

I have my own “sort-of” rule of thumb when deciding whether or not to use stock images. If imagery or illustration is more important than the rest of the content then don’t use stock images.

Don’t use stock images for branding and corporate identity whatsoever. Never. Never ever! Not on your logo, letterhead, business cards, uniforms etc.
Do use original content for branding purposes. Your company or brand must stand out with no unintentional association with another, especially not a competitor.

Don’t use stock images in your portfolio or online classifieds. It’s misleading and if people find out, it will severely damage your credibility.
Do feel free to use stock images on your flyers, posters, social media advertising and blog posts. Basically any advertising campaigns that won’t be around for too long. If you’re planning to run an ad for longer than a month then consider using original images instead.

Don’t use stock images to suggest people in those images work for your company because just like the previous point, it can ruin the trust between you and your client.
Do schedule a photo shoot and have you and employees photographed for your “meet the team” page, profile pictures etc. People connect with people.

call center agent use stock images
Who’s this? If you don’t know her, she can’t be the face of your brand.

Don’t use editorial stock images or pictures of celebrities for commercial purposes. (See more on Adobe Stock’s Terms of Use).

Don’t use stock images on the home page of your website or at least try to avoid it where possible. This is in line with branding.
Do use images of your office, building, portfolio items or team members.

Don’t use stock images for every single thing.
Do take snaps where you can. Use your smartphone camera. There are tons of apps that can add awesome effects to your images.

Don’t use photos for small images and icons.
Do choose stock vector images over photos where possible. Vector images allow you to edit them in a program like Adobe Illustrator. You can manipulate them over and over again, combine them with others and eventually edit them to a point where they no longer resemble the original and that gives them longevity.

scams use stock images
This is an excellent photo, but it was used in a scam. If your audience notices this they might associate you with the scam.

Don’t use cliché and generic looking images.
Do put careful consideration into the images you choose to use. Ask yourself: “Is it appropriate”, “Does it look too generic”, “Can people relate to it”. Images are a link between your content and your audience so make sure they relate to both. Research an image before you purchase or download it. A quick 5-10 minute Google search of an image will give you some insight. You should make sure you competitors haven’t used that image and more importantly, make sure it’s not used for any nefarious purposes like scams or inappropriate content.

Don’t always use stock images as-is.
Do consider personalizing your images. When you purchase a licence for an image, it gives you permission to modify it and that means you can manipulate it as much as you want.

edit images
Editing stock images you’ve purchased is a great way to customize them. Notice the difference between the image on the left used as-is compared to the edited one on the right.

Hopefully this post has helped you understand how you can use stock images effectively. I’ve read a few posts online and it seems there are people on both sides of the fence. Some say they never use them while others highly suggest using them. What are your thoughts? How do you get stock images to work for you? If you have any opinions or suggestions on the subject then please let us know in the comments.

Links to products in this post:

Color Pencils on Ruled Line Paper Background on ShutterstockAdobe Stock and Fotolia.