How to use stock images

In an ideal world we would never have to use stock photographs. I’ll explain why in a moment but first I want to tell you what to expect from this article.

Using stock photographs has some really good points but equally they can be just as bad, and I want to explain to you why and how you can avoid some of the pitfalls which can come with using stock imagery.

Newsletters, internal communications within a business, sample layouts for a website, images on blog articles (much like this one). I’m not afraid to admit that I use stock photography. There are also other times where you can use stock graphics again these are very similar circumstances to stock photography.

There are numerous sites out there which hold libraries of stock images, all ready to be found with a few keyword searches. Stock libraries have been in existence for decades well before the invention of the internet. How else would we be able to find images from the past.

Making matters even more complicated these sites all have different systems in place, pay for the image you use, pay for a license depending on how many people will see it, pay for a licences for a set period of time or the royalty free copyright free images.

Let me tell you there are some great photographs on some free stock libraries but you can always find better quality when you pay for the stock images.

So what are the plus sides of using stock images?

  1. For me it’s the diversity of images, from people to places.
  2.  I can have photos of places I’ve never been to and simply can’t afford to go to.

For every plus there’s always a down side.

  1. Anyone and I mean anyone can use the exact same stock image as you (in other words if you want something unique for your brand get the image yourself)
  2. The quality of some stock images are poor

How do you overcome these downsides.

For the first option if you pay for the stock images it reduces the chances of someone else using the exact same image, not everyone wants to pay or can pay for the images they use.Secondly and this is where you need to check the terms of the usage agreements, if you can edit the image in some way do it, make it look slightly different, give the image a treatment, place something within the image which is unique to you.

Here are a few examples of how to edit a stock image correctly and how not to edit the images.

Personally I soften the image, add bold text to the image along with my logo. A logo alone is not enough to define an image as yours. Even though the above options are simple even when using basic editing software it is worthwhile creating a style which is unique to your company, some styles will look similar to other brands, this is something which you truly need to try and avoid.

As for quality, you get what you pay for or decide to download, where there is an option to grab a selection of sizes always go for the largest one possible, equally never resize the image to be bigger than it actually is, that’s a sure fired way to ensure you loose quality.

If you can afford to get a photographer, illustrator or designer to create the images for you I recommend always doing this as it will cut down on the number of edits you have to do to maintain the brand message within your content.

Two areas where you should never use stock images.

  1. Your logo, it should be unique to your business / organisation etc, no one else should ever be able to use this image with the exception of the designer who created it and even then only for display in their portfolio never to sell on.
  2. Staff images, using stock images of people and displaying them as staff can make your company look untrustworthy. Why would you want to do business with someone who exaggerates their business with fake employees

Pre made branding and logo options are not stock imagery unless you can purchase them many times over in which case I would recommend you not buy them at all.

What are your thoughts and concerns to using stock images?

Top 5 Logo Design Tips

Your logo says a lot about your business, typically it will be the first graphical representation of your company. So with that in mind here are my top five tips for a lasting quality logo that truly reflects your business.


Make your logo work in black and white as well as colour

Why I hear you cry, everyone has colour printers these days and all the monitors are colour too, so why should it matter.
Printing in black and white is still cheaper than full colour, and if your invoice gets photocopied it’s likely to be in black and white. It makes sense to ensure your logo is still identifiable in black and white as it is in full colour.

Avoid trends

Before this beautiful flat design we had designs which were rendered to look almost as if they were real. Yes having that flat designed logo looks fresh and bang on trend but as soon as the flat trend has gone sadly you’re logo is going to start to look dated.

Invest in a designer

Yes I know I’m a graphic designer, of course I would say that. Fair enough, I get your point. But seriously your logo is an investment in your business, and it should last you a lifetime. Maybe it may have some minor upgrades over time most logos do but I’m not on about changing your logo every year, I’m on about getting twenty to thirty years service out of it.

Avoid stock imagery in your logo

Using stock images in your logo effectively means your identity is not unique. You’re business is unique so your logo should be too.
This is not to say that you can’t buy a stock (ready-made) logo and branding set for your business, just check the small print and ensure that you are going to be the only one with the rights to use that logo and branding.

Make your logo scalable

You’re logo may need to go as small as that tiny favicon in the corner of the web address, you know that cute little icon that appears in your bookmark manager folder right up to a full advertising board size.

Just because I feel like it here is a bonus tip for you

The fewer colours you use the better

There are some circumstances in which you want a full colour logo, especially if its illustrative. Some methods of printing cost more because you use a wide array of colours as opposed to say three or four. You’re fine for digital printing, as soon as it becomes more advanced the costs start to rise. Also using fewer colours helps with the transition from full colour to black and white.

You’re turn, what tips would you give to someone after a logo design?