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4 Myths About Stock Photos (And What You Really Need to Know)

4 myths about stock photos - why styled stock photos can be a great affordable photography resource and what you need to know about using stock photos for your brand.

So I know stock photos sometimes get a bad reputation when it comes to using them as images for your business. But I know that 1) not everyone can afford custom images for their business 2) not everyone has the time to take their own photos and 3) even if people have the time, they’d rather spend it on other things (like binge-watching netflix, drinking wine, or actually spending time with their family)!

Stock photos can be great way to create a cohesive visual brand across your marketing channels, especially if you have a new business and want to make the most of your budget!

Unfortunately, not all stock photos are created equal. When you understand some of the myths and misconceptions around using stock photos, you can ensure that you choose the right kind for your business!

Myth #1 – Free Stock Photos Are All Bad

Free stock photos are easily accessible for a wide range of people. While that’s very convenient, it also means that A TON of people are using them. If you want to create a unique visual brand for your business, using free stock photos is probably not the best choice, but free stock photos aren’t necessarily all bad. There are plenty of websites that have free stock photos that could be a good fit for your business. It’s definitely going to take some digging and some research to find great free images… but it might be worth it to convey your brand in a more attractive way. (PS you can grab 10 free feminine stock photos RIGHT HERE!)

Myth #2 – Paid Stock Photos Are Expensive

Stock photos are actually available at a wide range of prices. They certainly don’t have to be free or wildly expensive. Websites like Creative Market and Etsy are full of beautiful stock photos at a reasonable price. They are also a number of sites that offer affordable stock photo memberships where you can download a certain number of stock photos every month. And if you’re looking for a stock photo membership where you have instant access to download an unlimited number of photos, there’s the Styled Stock Society – where you can get instant access to over 1,000 photos for less than $20/month.

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Myth #3 – You Don’t Have to Credit the Photographer

The terms of use associated with stock photos differs depending on the photographer and copyright owner. It’s really important to understand how you can and can’t use your stock photos when you’re using them for your business. Some sites come with licenses that allow you to use stock photos for both personal and commercial use, while sometimes they’re just for personal use. Sometimes you have to credit the photographer and other times you don’t. In fact, you may only be able to use images a certain number of times based on the photo license. It’s really important to understand the full terms of use when using stock photos for your business because you want to make sure that you’re using them legally.

(If you’re using my stock photos, credit is never required… but it’s always appreciated!)

Myth #4 – You Can’t Customize Stock Photos To Fit Your Brand

Depending on the terms of use of your stock photos, you may be able to customize them to fit your brand. You could add color overlays, filters, or text in your brand fonts. You might also be able to crop, rotate, or otherwise manipulate the orientation of a stock photo to make it look a little bit different. You might even be able to insert your own product images into stock photos! There are a few different ways you can customize stock photos to be a better fit for your brand – just make sure that the way you use your stock photos isn’t a violation of the terms of use.

Stock photos can be a great way for businesses with a limited budget to create a cohesive visual brand. Just remember that not all stock photos will work for you! It’s really important to find the right stock photos for you that not only represent your brand, but also come with the terms of use that are a good fit for your business.

Are you using stock photos for your business or blog?

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4 Tips for Better Product Photos on Instagram

Tips for better product photos on Instagram - how to attract potential buyers with high quality images and elevate your visual marketing with simple photography tips.

If you sell your products online, having high quality product photos is incredibly important. It’s the only way to convey the quality of your products because customers can’t actually touch or feel them before they make their purchase. The quality of your product photos directly affects the perceived quality of your products… so if you have low quality images, chances are people think your products are low quality as well!

When it comes to marketing your products on Instagram, just because someone sees your product photos doesn’t mean they’ll take the action to click through and buy it. In fact the most of the time / most of the people won’t. Ever. #truth

That’s why it’s SO important to have visually compelling images on Instagram in order to attract potential buyers to STOP and take a look instead of scrolling by. DIYing your product photography? Here are a few tips will help you capture better product photos for Instagram.

Lighting is Everything

Whether you’re using your iPhone or a DSLR camera, lighting is the most important thing when it comes to your product photos. I generally prefer using natural light when possible, but natural light can be a bit tricky since it isn’t something you always have control over. Start by finding the best natural light in your space. When you’re at home or in an office, the best natural is usually by the window or door. If you don’t have natural light in your space, you might need to go outside.

Pay attention to how the light changes throughout the day. You might want to avoid direct sunlight because it can create harsh shadows. If you don’t have access to natural light, you can obviously use studio lighting. There are a range of lighting options from basic and cheap to super professional (this is a great set for less than $200).

Background Basics

For easy and affordable white backgrounds, you can buy foam boards at a craft store or Amazon. These are a great hack for flat lays when you don’t have a white table or desk (and they are super cheap)! If you need a seamless background for any sort of vertical product shots where you don’t want to see the wall in the background, seamless photo backdrop paper is the best option. You can find a range of sizes and color options to fit your brand but if you really want your products to stand out I recommend using a neutral white or gray background for basic product photos. Savage Paper is the seamless backdrop paper that I use (it’s nice and thick!) and it comes in a ton of different colors and sizes to fit your space.

Styled and Lifestyle Combinations

One thing that gets a little confusing for people is the difference between styled and lifestyle images. Styled photos are products photos that you plan with intentionally placed props in order to highlight or “accessorize” your main product. This is what you might think of when you see food photography or desktop photos where things look almost too perfect. Lifestyle photos are photos that look more like they are taken of things happening naturally in everyday life. These might show your product actually being used by a person the way it would on a daily basis.

Having a combination of the two types of photos can be ideal for product based businesses. Lifestyle photos can be more relatable for your audience because when people see other people using / wearing products, they can envision the product in their own lives. On the other hand, styled photos can be a more focused and clean way of showcasing a product so that the focus is really on the product’s features. You may notice that your audience responds better to certain types of photos in comparison to others so pay attention to which photos get higher engagement as well as which ones drive more sales!

Consistent Style

Having a set of photography tools you use on a regular basis will streamline your product photography. Using consistent lighting, consistent editing, and consistent colors, and consistent props will help you create a consistent style that makes your brand more memorable. Consistency breeds credibility.

You want all of your product photos to have a cohesive look, and using consistent colors and props is an easy way to visually tie things together. I recommend having a “prop box” on hand with small items you can use to style with your products. I have an overflowing closet full of props for my various clients and customers, but even if you start with a few items that you use on a consistent basis, that will help to create a more consistent look to your images!

Are you ready to up-level your own product photos?

How to Brand Photos for Your Business

How to brand photos for your online business or blog.

Branding is the key to differentiating yourself from hundreds of people who are doing the same thing that you do or selling the same thing that you sell.

It’s about providing an experience and presenting your offerings in a way that makes your audience feel like they know you. Brand photos also help to create a recognizable brand so that when people come across your business online, they remember you. Your brand photos play an essential part in your overall visual branding and help to build the know / like / trust factor with your potential clients and customers over time.

How to Brand Photos for Your Business

Know Yourself First

If you think your brand is just a logo or some colors and a tag line, you’re wrong. When you’re a small business owner, solopreneur, or blogger you are your brand. Think about the way you speak, connect, and relate to other people. All of that is part of your brand. Your personality should come through in your brand images. If you’re funny and sarcastic or warm and friendly, think about how that comes across to your audience and how you can illustrate that visually. Your brand photos should help people visualize what it might be like to work with you / hang out with you / be IRL besties with you. How can your potential clients begin to like you if they don’t know who you are? 

Know Your Audience

Other than knowing yourself, knowing your audience is a key component to branding your images. You have to understand who you are trying to attract. If you don’t have a specific audience in mind and you’re trying to relate to everyone – you probably aren’t relating to anyone. Think about the people you actually want as your customers and clients. Defining your target audience is an essential step in the building of your brand and business. 

When you’re clear on who your target audience is, you can create brand photos with them in mind. You can show how your product will fit into their lifestyle or what their life might look like after they work with you. You want your clients to be able to picture themselves interacting with your products and services. By understanding your audience, you’ll be better able to attract and relate to them through your visual content.

Define Your Style

Keeping your personal brand and audience in mind, think about how your visual style can showcase your personality but also attract your target audience. Start with a Pinterest board and pin 10-20 images that really appeal to you and fit the vibe of your brand. Then try to narrow down your style to two or three adjectives that really convey your brand visually. All of your images should then reflect these adjectives. If your brand is ‘bubbly and colorful’ or ‘neutral, minimal, and organic’, keep these words in mind whenever you are taking photos (or having photos taken!) for your business.

Understand Your Goals

Think about how are you are actually using or going to use your photos for your brand.  Will you be using brand photos on your website or blog, social media, print marketing, or advertising? You’ll want to make sure that your visual content helps you achieve your goals on whatever platform(s) you’re on.

If you’re using your brand photos on your website for example, think about how specifically you’re using those images. What feelings do you want your audience to have when they come across your website? You might have a hero image that calls attention to specific products or images on your about page that illustrate who you are. Do you need horizontal images or vertical images? Do you need a lot of white space for text? Determine specifically how your photos will coordinate with the rest of your website and brand elements before you create photos for your brand. Having this forethought may save you a lot of trouble in the long run!

Be Consistent

Consistency breeds credibility. People like to know what to expect. You want to send a consistent visual message to your audience so when it comes to your brand photos, consistency is key! From the colors you incorporate to the props you use to the way you edit your images – you should maintain a level of consistency to the point that your visual content flows together and your audience can easily recognize your brand photos. If you’re constantly changing things up or incorporating a lot of different styles into your visuals, your audience is going to be confused! Keep things simple and be consistent when it comes to your branding photos for your business.

Do you have other tips for branding photos for your business? Share in the comments!

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