Stock photos are an increasingly popular way for bloggers and other content creators to enhance their work, i know I have purchased thousands and thousands of them over the years. There are free and paid ones, often of very high quality and created by professional photographers who then grant a license for others to use their work. Stock photos can be used as illustrations for the content and as inspiration for artistic works such as book covers and more.

But it is important to learn when to use them and when not to use them. Here are some tips.

When to Use Them

  • To support your text – Your image should support your blog post or other type of writing. It will add a new dimension and make your pages more interesting. Images also appeal to visual learners, who make up about 70% of the population.
  • To offer an interesting background to your page – You can set a stock image as a background for certain themes, such as the holidays, to make your information or special offer jump off the page. Just beware of contrasting colors in the text to make sure the content is easy to read against the background.
  • In PowerPoint presentations – PowerPoint presentations can be so dull; like death by bullet point. Add a few stock images to make things pop. Also use SmartArt to support your content, such as facts, figures and statistics.
  • As education material – Some images, such as those on Wikimedia Commons, illustrate things like the human body or difficult scientific concepts. A picture can be worth a thousand words and your audience can get a lot out of these graphics.

When Not to Use Them

  • In your logos – You want something completely unique for your logo, so a stock image is the last thing you would want to use. You can imitate one you love by taking a similar photo yourself, but don’t use the same photo that millions of others have access to.
  • Book covers or other promotional material – You want to stand out from the crowd, not look the same as everyone else. People do judge a book or CD, for example, by its cover.
  • If you are not sure of the rights being conveyed – Stock image companies offer a range of photos with a range of licenses depending on the photographer’s desire to retain certain rights.
  • If you see Creative Commons, you would have full use of the image, with no need to pay. It is considerate to offer a credit line and link back to the image, but it is not essential. With other stock images, they might state you are not allowed to use it for profit, for a book cover and so on, or you might have to pay more for these rights to try to keep things exclusive. Read the fine print carefully. When in doubt, leave it out.
  • If they don’t support the impression you are trying to create – Some stock images are gorgeous. Others look cheesy and fake. Think about the “personality” of your business, formal versus informal, for example, and choose images or parts of images (you can crop them) that will convey who you are and what your business is all about.

Use stock photos correctly and they can really help your work stand out.

Where Is It Okay to Use Stock Photos and Where Should You Not Use Them?
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