By Emily Suess

Choosing great stock photography for your small business brochures, website, and blog is about so much more than simply choosing the cheapest option out there. When selected carefully, stock photos help you capture and keep the attention of your readers. Keep these tips in mind when choosing the photos that represent your business.

1. Affordable might be better than free.

If you can find free images that are captivating and work for your site, go for it! However, many times free photos are uploaded by amateur photographers. They may be poorly cropped, blurry, or dimly lit. If you can’t find the right Creative Commons photo, don’t settle. Look for an affordable stock photography site or consider learning to take your own high-quality photos.

2. Understand how licensing works.

If your budget is a major concern, then you definitely need to make sure you’re using stock images in accordance with the licensing agreement. When reading the agreement, you should look for several things: Are you required to give credit when using the image? Are you allowed to manipulate the image? Are you allowed to use the image commercially? Several stock photography companies offer different licensing terms at different price points depending on your needs. Don’t pay for more than you need, and adhere to the terms to ensure you don’t end up in a legal battle.

3. Avoid stiffly posed photos.

Toothy grins come off as insincere whether you’re buying a stock photo or using photos of your actual employees. When choosing photos with people as the subject, opt for more natural poses that show employees or customers in action, not just staring wide-eyed into the camera.

4. Dig deeper for more unique options.

How many places have you seen that one customer service representative in the light blue button-down shirt with a headset and a bright white smile? It seems like it gets used everywhere, doesn’t it? When you’re shopping for photos, take some extra time to dig for unique photos that work well for your project. That may mean searching through many pages and scouring several different sites to protect your brand from appearing commonplace.

5. Test the watermarked photo first.

Before you pay for a photo, test it out by placing the watermarked image in your mockup. This will make it easier for you to determine how well the image works with your layout and color scheme. Once you’ve got a winner, you can purchase the stock photo to use on your published document or web page.

6. Keep your audience in mind.

Finally, keep your intended audience in mind when choosing photos. Your subjects—including people, places, pets, and backgrounds—should be relatable to your audience. That means being careful not to select photography that’s outdated. Old clothing styles and obsolete technologies can give the wrong impression about your small business.

Stock images can greatly enhance your marketing materials. Remember these tips the next time you’re searching for the perfect visual to use on your print and digital marketing collateral.