Stock Images – When to Use Them

I think stock images get a bad rap.  Truth is, it’s ok to use stock images.  You just need to be smart about it.

Why smart?  Because stock images are available for everyone to use, so unlike using your own photos, you might see a photo you’ve downloaded on another site.  Not a national disaster, but you do want your imagery to tell your story, so having images you use appear on multiple, unrelated sites can dilute your branding.

Ideally, majority of the images you use on your website and across social media should be your own.  But there are times when a stock photo is ok.  Done well, the combination should be seamless.

What are Stock Images?

In general, stock images are photographs that are free from copyright restrictions or licensed under creative commons public domain dedication. This means you can copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.

Here are my tips to using Stock Images successfully across your branding:

Don’t always use FREE

While free is great (especially if you’re on a shoe string budget), free means that everyone is going to be using these images.  There’s nothing I hate more than seeing an image I’ve used for a blog appear on someone else’s blog, especially if we occupy the same content space.

So be strategic with the freebie images.  Keep an eye out for the ones that are used repeatedly and avoid them in your own branding.  Use a mix of paid and free if you can afford it.

Be creative

If you’re using free images, try to be a little creative with them.   Use them as a background for quotes or as a base image rather than main images.  There are some great apps out there that you can use to overlay text and build images and free images can be great to use here.

This image was created with Canva – it’s a free image but has been overlaid with text & branding to make it “mine”.

Stock Photos - How to use Free Images

Don’t use the first image

This is true even for paid stock image sites.  Don’t always use photos from the first few pages – try to skip through to the third, fourth and fifth pages.  While it’s not guaranteed, you’ll have a better chance of finding an image no one else is using.  This is extremely important if you are occupying a very popular niche.

What stock images do I use?

Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock is my go to image hub.  They aren’t free – but they’re cheap enough that they won’t make a huge dent in your monthly expenses.  I pretty much always find what I’m looking for and I’ve never run out of credits … so far!

You can grab a subscription to Adobe Stock here.

Styled Stock Society

I found this collection of beautiful stock images by chance one day and have been using them for certain parts of my personal branding.  They are super styled, very feminine images, so they won’t suit all businesses.  But if that sounds like you – then jump on this and you’re sure to make people wonder where you got them from!

I tend to use these ones for events and blogs – they are truly beautiful and just a little different to what everyone else is using.  The feature image for this blog was purchased from Styled Stock Society.



Pexels is FREE and so like anything free, everyone uses it.  So I try to only use this site for images like coffee or basic phone images.  I tend to use these ones for blog feature photos, as I use a lot of them.  I would generally avoid using these for social media posts or website images as you’ll find that they will appear on multiple sites.

The only reason I’d use them for a social media post would be as a background to something that I’ve overlaid text onto.  That way the image becomes unique to you and is harder to identify as a “free” image.

There are tonnes of free stock photo sites – just remember to double check the license and make sure you’re free to use the photos as you see fit.  It’s your responsibility to ensure you use the photos under the correct licence.

I hope this helps you to navigate your way around stock images.  If you’ve got questions, why not join my FB Group!


If you’d like to take control of your own branding and would like some one on one help with Canva – please get in contact.  I’d love to help you create amazing images for your business!

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