How to Use Stock Photos to Stand Out from the Crowd

How to use stock photos to stand out from the crowd

Stock photos get a bad rap in the design world. What do you think of when you hear the phrase “stock photos”? Do you picture cheesy infomercial-style families sitting in a sterile living room and staring at the camera uncomfortably?

I’ll be honest, when I first started hearing about stock photos making an emergence in the small business world, I had no idea how anyone could want to use a cheesy stock photo to brand their business. But, the stock photos of the maker-world are a far cry from those cheesy infomercial photos. In this post, I want to give you an intro into the world of styled-stock photos and the artists creating gorgeous imagery for your business. I’ll also give you some tips to use these photos to stand out from the crowd!

Who creates these styled stock photos, and how can I find them?

There are tons of photographers creating gorgeous styled stock photos online. My favorite places to find styled stock photographers is on Creative Market.

Just search “styled stock” and a few other keywords that fit your brand to find images you like.  Here, I did a quick search for “styled stock farmhouse.”

My strategy, once I find a photographer I like, is generally a quick run through of these steps.

  • Go to the photographer’s profile (by clicking on their name) to see the entirety of their work.
  • Make sure that there is a variety of photos available from this photographer, and that their style fits your brand identity.
  • Photographers generally offer bundles, which are great values! So definitely look for those.
  • I also like to go to the photographer’s website to see if they have an email newsletter. Most styled stock photographers send out regular emails with free styled stock photos.

How much do they cost?

There is a variety of cost options when purchasing styled stock, which will depend on the quality of the photos, the amount of photos you are buying, and whether or not you subscribe to a photographer’s monthly service.

Here are some of my favorite styled stock photographers and some price point options available from them:

 Price PointBundles?Single Photos?Subscription Service?Newsletter
TwigyPosts$10 to $39 YesYesYes, starting at $299/yrYes, with free images when you sign up
SC Stockshop$25 to $196 for Stock Shop, $6 per image for Social SquaresYesYes, entirely single images with Social SquaresYes, $15/mo for Social SquaresYes, with 20 free images immediately, and new images monthly
Haute StockMembership onlyNoMembership only$99 quarterly, or $299/yrYes, with freebies!
Kate Max Stock$10 to $39YesYes$325/yrYes, with freebies!
Floral Deco$15-$79YesYesNoNo

How can I use them for my business?

Nearly any business can use stock photos as part of their overall branding strategy. The key is to find photos and a photographer that works with your style, whether that’s beachy and boho, rustic and farmhouse, or clean and bright white.

Here is a list of ideas for how to use stock photos in your business, whether you are a calligrapher, a service based business, or a product based business:

  • Use “flat lay photographs” to create scenes with your products inserted.
    Flat lay photos are basically exactly what they sound like. They’re a picture of a surface (a desktop, floor, or other scene) taken from directly above. Generally they will have a lot of white space to insert your product or design. This is great for adding an image of a print (don’t forget to add a shadow to the print to make it more realistic) or even a photo of a product you create as long as you can make the image blend with the background. When inserting a product photo, the photograph should have a pure white background that is easy to erase/smooth when inserting it into the flatlay.
  • Use images to create sales announcements or share other shop/business information.
    You can do this easily in Canva (basically a free online Photoshop) or in the photo editing software of your choice. For light colored photos, just insert black text. For darker or more detailed photos, you may want to add a semi-transparent overlay on top of the image. Both examples are shown below.
  • Use the occasional stock photo in your social media.
    I love having the option of picking a styled stock image from my Dropbox library and popping it onto Instagram on those days when I’m feeling at a loss for what to post. Try finding packs that have seasonal images so that you have some ready-made holiday posts! You definitely don’t want to have too many stock photos as stand-alone posts, though. I try to keep it to about one every 4-5 posts at most. That way, my products, work, and process are the main players in my Instagram feed.
  • Use product mockup photos to share your work.
    Taking product photos is hard! If you sell any product that is customized with your designs, I guarantee there is a styled stock mockup photo out there for you! Common categories include art prints, canvases, wallpaper, mug, and canvas bag mockups. One thing to keep in mind is that the mockup should look JUST like the item you sell. You don’t want a customer to be surprised or disappointed when their item arrives and looks different than the mockup.  I commissioned custom mockup photos from a photgrapher so that i could pop my artwork into them and list right away – I would definitely recommend this if you sell in a highly competitive market (like art prints). You don’t want your brand to be confused with someone else’s if you are using the same photos.
  • Use stock photos for consistent website branding.
    The trend in website styling is to have huge, high resolution, bright images on the front page of your website. If you’re like me, taking photos like that could easily take up an entire workday! Add your logo on top of a styled stock image that fits your brand, and the work is done in about 10 minutes. Check out my website at printablewisdomco.com to see how I use stock photos in my front page slider.
  • Use styled stock for blog images and to break up content.
    The pretty images in this post? The one with the cute camera on the blue background at the top of this post? Styled stock. Specifically, styled stock from the SC Stockshop’s Social Squares subscription. Using professionally styled photos like this instantly elevates your brand and the photo is ready-made to catch readers’ eyes. Try using styled stock on your Pinterest ready image (like the one at the top of this post) and to break up content within your blog posts.

I hope you enjoyed reading these tips! I’m always on the lookout for new styled stock photographers, and would love to hear who’s work you’re loving in the comments!

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