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5 Tips for Using Stock Photography Better

Aug 16, 2013 2:27:39 PM

In today’s world, everyone has access to the same stock photography. So how do you choose it better, and use it better, to help make your marketing efforts unique and have your message cut through?

Set parameters. Your choice of stock photography should reflect your brand, and most of our clients here at Anderson have established guidelines. But beyond that, it helps to create your own subset within those guidelines for a given program. In other words, you can set up your own set of rules to guide your particular look and feel, giving your project a feel of being “directed,” even though you may be choosing stock from a variety of sources. Setting your own limitations can be a great source if creativity, and can give your work a unique tone of voice.

Be aware of trends. This is different than being “trendy.” An awareness of what’s going on in the photography world can help keep your marketing efforts from looking dated. Sites like Communication Arts and Photo District News are great sources, and just a Google search for photography trends is enough to start poking around. Once you’ve soaked up some of the best work out there, your new “eye” will be along for the ride the next time you search for stock, and your work will be the better for it.

Get away from “see and say.” People are told stories with pictures from the time they are very young, and they can’t help but start creating a story in their minds when shown photography. So keep storytelling in mind when doing your search. Because whatever your copy is saying, the job of your photography isn’t to simply repeat that same message. The photography, and the art direction generally, should give greater meaning to what’s written. Imagery can drive creative direction if done right, and can make copy work harder at the very least. A picture is worth . . . well, you get the idea.

Crop. You don’t have to use any photo just as it was shot. A search for “woman’s hands” won’t yield nearly as many results as “woman reaching” or something similar. So search for your concept rather than a specific image. The photo you find will probably be more interesting, and then you can simply crop into the image to capture the area you like

Personalize it. Make it black and white. Reduce or increase the saturation. Change the focus to make a particular area of the image pop. Techniques like these can give a varied collection of images a cohesive look. Warning: A little “Photoshopping” goes a long way; any design pro will know when enough is enough.

And if all else fails . . .

Shoot it. Yes this is a post about stock photography. But don’t forget there are still skilled and talented photographers out there, and they are still doing great work. While the opportunities are few and far between in these days of tight budgets, once in a while your project may cry out for a photo shoot. Don’t be afraid! Photo shoots are great opportunities to get the exact shots you are looking for.

*These tips have been shared by the Creative Services team at Anderson


Steve Stanard

Written by Steve Stanard

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