How to choose good stock images for your marketing campaigns | Heart Internet Blog – Focusing on all aspects of the web

According to the latest research, there are 5.82 million small businesses in the UK. 76 per cent of these are single person enterprises, while a further 19 per cent are micro businesses, employing one to nine staff.

If you fit into one of the above two brackets, you’ll know that when you’re part of a small or micro business, you need to wear a lot of hats – accountant, copywriter, mentor, salesperson, social media expert – even photographer.

In fact, good quality images are a necessity for businesses of all sizes – required for everything from website pages to marketing campaigns.

While A/B tests have shown that web pages that have authentic imagery have nearly a 35 per cent higher conversion rate than a page with stock photos, small and micro business owners don’t often have the skills, time or budget to take, commission or curate an image bank of unique photos.

The good news is that when you understand how to choose good imagery, it can still be a valuable weapon in your marketing arsenal and will allow you to create a visual identity and marketing campaigns for your business in a very affordable way.

Are images really that important?

The role that imagery plays in effective marketing can’t really be overstated. Research from Brain Rules found that when people read information, they’re likely to remember only 10 per cent of that information three days later. However, when a relevant image was paired with that same information, people retained 65 per cent of the information three days later.

So maybe a picture doesn’t speak a thousand words, but more accurately helps us remember six hundred and fifty words.

Not only do images enhance a person’s ability to remember content better, but imagery also has the ability to affect a person’s mood.  So, as you can see, imagery is a very powerful thing.

Ultimately, if you want a marketing campaign to be remembered you need to add appropriate imagery to your content that helps produce the emotive response that you intend.

The 4 golden rules to choosing the best stock images.

Some stock images are absolutely awful. But, some are actually really good, and if you learn how to find those and use them well you will be able to enhance your marketing communications.

So, with that in mind, here’s our guide to choosing the best stock imagery.

#1 Stay clear of unrealistic images

In an effort to get eyes on your content you may be tempted to go for something that is disruptive and eye-catching, but you have to be careful that it doesn’t stand out for all the wrong reasons. A bad image will not only offer nothing of value to your content, but it can actually make people scroll right past your content in search of something that strikes more of a chord.

In research conducted by MDG Advertising, 67 per cent of online shoppers rated high-quality images as being “very important” to their purchase decision, which was slightly more than “product specific information”, “long descriptions,” and “reviews and ratings”. This clearly demonstrates that poor imagery will have an impact on your bottom line.

Take this image as an example, have you ever seen two grown men dressed as superheroes in the office? No, because as a rule, people don’t wear capes in the office. At least not here at Heart Internet anyway. And, if you don’t see men dressed as superheroes everyday, it is extremely unlikely that your audience will, which makes this image pretty difficult for them to relate to.

This image is extremely unrealistic, and the use of it will make your business seem at best misguided and at worst, insincere. You have to ask yourself, would you want to buy products or services from a business that is willing to use such blatantly ridiculous and disingenuous photography?

Instead, look for images that portray something more truthful and relatable. If you are looking for a way to depict workplace heroes, choose a realistic image of someone working late in the office. Let the audience picture someone in your team staying late to make sure that their needs are met.

Remember, you don’t have to be literal in your choices. Your audience is smart, they will understand and appreciate a more nuanced approach.

#2 Ensure the image is relevant to the content and suitable for its placement.

This may seem really obvious, but you would be surprised at how often a completely inappropriate image is used with content both in marketing campaigns and on websites. Some use an image as placeholders to break up text, others because they like an image and want it to fit with their content, even if it makes no sense whatsoever. These are mistakes. Big ones.

The only good reason to add an image to your content is to enhance it and make it even more memorable. For an image to truly resonate with your audience, it has to be relevant to the content that it is paired with. Putting content together isn’t easy, so don’t let your hard work go to waste by choosing an image that detracts from it.

It’s also important to remember that imagery on a website adds to the page size and can have an impact on the load time. This is important when you consider that 53 per cent of mobile site visitors will leave a website if it takes more than three seconds to load. So, it’s really not in your interest to fill a web page full of unnecessary images.

Another key aspect of choosing stock images is ensuring you choose the right type of image for where you intend to put it. For example, if you are looking for a hero image on a website, make sure that any site text will sit well on top of it. The last thing you want is for your text to be illegible.

Instead, look for images with an element of negative space that will really help your content to shine.

#3 Make consistent image choices

Nothing makes stock images stand out more than inconsistent colours, tones and styles. So when you are choosing images make sure that they fit well together and suit your brand.

Here’s an example of what we mean.

Although both of these images portray an office setting, they are completely different styles and tones. It is obvious that they don’t belong together and that makes the fact that they’re stock images stick out like a sore thumb.

If you have a strong colour theme and tone ensure that you carry that through with your image choices on all your marketing platforms. The images need to look like they belong together to help your brand be more recognisable and memorable.

You can achieve consistency by either choosing images from a handful of contributors who have a consistent style and tone that suits your brand or, by manipulating the tone of the images yourself in design software.

Whatever you decide, keep it consistent.

#4 Understand how licensing works

We can’t stress the importance of making sure you understand licensing enough. It is really important that you use images legally and use them for their intended purpose. You have to ask yourself, is any image really worth getting sued over?

Some licenses allow for images to be used in any way you choose, however, other licenses only allow for editorial use. If that is the case you can’t use the image for any commercial endeavor. These images tend to be more appropriate for newspapers, news broadcasts and other non-commercial applications.

There are plenty of paid and free stock sites out there for you to choose from. Here are some to get you started:

Paid stock sites


Getty Images

Free stock sites:




Just remember to source your images from reputable sites and ensure that you fully understand what you can and can’t do with them.

Time to take stock

If you follow these simple rules you’ll be able to use stock imagery to your advantage and create some truly awesome and memorable marketing campaigns.

Have you got any examples of how you’ve used stock photography to enhance your marketing? Share it with us in the comments below or on social media.


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