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Advertorial: How to make stock photos work

Published:Tuesday | July 31, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Stock photos are the Cinderella of advertising – they might not sweep the floor or wash the dishes but might as well since they are so often misused and underappreciated.

Ever cringed at a glaringly irrelevant and grossly cliché image used to illustrate a blog or a low-end consulting firm?

Smiling people in suits and too much makeup aren’t all there is to stock photography, so let’s take a look at some of the better ways to use it in your marketing.

1. Background it
Whether or not you employ a professional photographer and designer to create your visual content, you want your giveaway announcement or an event invite to look professional. In order to get the best of both worlds, use stock photos to create visual designs – add visual elements, font and frames to take the focus off the image and onto your primary information.

Once your selected stock image becomes background, its humble stock image origins become that much less apparent.

As long as your topic does not call for a photo of your actual product, facility or employees, use a themed stock image as a background for announcements or invites. Take your time browsing through the stock images to find the one most suited to your purposes most closely – I swear I got a pair of shears exactly like these at home:

2. Mixology isn’t just for the drinks
Don’t pack your website or blog with stock images only – have your own photographs to add to the mix and combine the two types of illustrations to get the best of both worlds.

Stock photos will provide the coveted professional touch, while authenticity should come from your own. As long as the two look similar in style, colour and composition, you are golden.

3. Filter out the banality
Stock images are taken and edited by professional photographers and are distributed as such – perfect composition, great light and dark balance, image sharpness, near-perfect colour scheme and no imperfections.

That slick look is what betrays the stock nature of the images, so try to rough it up a bit using various filters that make the photo more like the ones you or staff took. Make a stock image black and white, change brightness or use various filters to customise your design.

Let take a generic picture of a nondescript girl enjoying her empty cup of tea at a friend’s house:

Filter generously:

Add a frame:

Download the image and then browse templates you’d like to use. Pick one and upload the edited stock image you’ve just saved as a background (see our tip #1). Type in your text and change its colour, if necessary:

Download your final design:

4. Don’t fear the hypothetical
If you’ve read any guides on using stock images before, you’ve probably noticed the general consensus is that using stock images for brochures or mock ups is totally fine, but why? Well, people tend to be less 'judgy' about your use of stock photography when the subject you are trying to illustrate for is purely hypothetical and/or will take place in the future. Play that to your advantage – use stock images to illustrate future events, but hurry – this tip will probably only hold until humanity has invented a time machine.)

Let’s look at an example – say, you are hosting a raffle for your customers and your main prize is a movie night at the Kodak theatre (now The Dolby Theatre). Unless you are a popcorn producer, no one is going to hold it against you if you use a stock photo to illustrate your announcement.

5. Humour me
With stock images being the subject of plenty of ridicule it seems only natural that you try and employ your sharp sense of humour (when appropriate) while using such images. No matter how fun and imaginative your wall of text is, everyone needs a break from reading once in a while (or every 10 seconds, as the trend goes in the recent years), so fess up to using stock images to lighten up your materials and be fun about it.

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- Advertorial