7 Tips on Selecting Stock Photography
by Nalisa Capers
by Nalisa Capers
We’ve all been there — in the midst of building a presentation and noticing a need for stock imagery to give the work more pizazz. The visual impact stock photos can have on a body of work should not be taken lightly, and the truth is, many people are finding and using stock photography in the wrong way. Humans are visual beings that consume around 100,500 words a day, and the average consumer has an attention span of about 8 seconds. On the other hand, it only takes a quarter of a second to process visual cues. This means that visuals can instantly communicate your message with minimal effort. With this in mind, it’s important to know how to select stock photography so you don’t muddle your messaging. Here are ten things to consider when selecting images:
1) Know where to find solid stock photography.
When using photos from the internet, it’s important to stay on the safe side so that you’re not in any legal trouble down the road. There are many websites — like Pexels, Unsplash, and Pixabay — that have generous copyright licenses and are free to use, modify, or distribute. There are also paid sites like Shutterstock, iStock, and Getty Images that are available with a subscription (these websites have different licensing restrictions than the free sites, but often have a wider selection). No matter where you land, you can be sure that these images will have the professional quality you’re looking for, without running the risk of copyright infringement.
2) Understand licensing agreements
Whenever you use a stock image, it’s crucial to understand the licensing terms associated with it. Unfortunately, like most legal documents, licensing agreements can be confusing to the average reader and terms often vary from site to site. It’s important to know the three most common licenses used these days: Rights Managed, Royalty Free, and Extended License.
3) Use relevant images
When selecting stock photos, aim for images that are authentic. Audiences can tell when a photo feels staged and that can negatively impact the message. Seek out candid photos that seem natural and have good lighting. Most importantly, check your biases. Be sure that your selections do not include any biases that might alienate your audience or distract from your message. Stock photos should align with the brand you’re working with and the audience you are speaking to and should not include any narrow representations of a specific population. This can be tricky with many stock photos because stereotypical images tend to be the first to appear in a search. Be picky!
4) Use well-lit photos
Make sure the subject in your photo is well lit and clearly identifiable. If you are using multiple images, be sure to have consistent lighting throughout. Many photographers edit their photos before uploading them to stock websites, so do your best to avoid any filtered images to keep them as natural-looking as possible.
5) Use high-resolution images
Screen resolutions are constantly changing and getting sharper, so our images have to be a higher resolution to look good. If you choose a low-resolution image, it will look compressed and pixelated and immediately make your work look unprofessional. Using small or blurry images could harm your brand. A good rule is to make sure your images are at least 2000 pixels wide on the shortest side.
6) Stay away from overused images
It’s easy to recognize when a photo is overused. Keep from repeating images to avoid falling into cliches and being repetitive. Use online tools like Tineye or Google’s Image Search to see how often an image has been used before. This also gives you insight into how others are using the image. If you see a stock photo being heavily used, choose something else.
7) Using hero images
A hero image is a large web banner or a slide that sets the tone for the content that is to follow. Since a hero image often creates the first impression, it’s important that you use high-quality images that are appropriate for the brand and content you are working with. Another important note is to select photos with buttons, logos, or copy in mind so that these elements do not obstruct the view of the photo.
With these tips in mind, you’re armed with the information you need to select a great stock photo. You’ll be able to quickly identify the difference between a strong photo and one that may negatively impact your messaging. With the right stock photography, your work will feel more professional and easily keep your audience engaged.
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