Images for business – it’s a business in itself. Photographers and online graphic design programs can really help but they cost time and (often) money.

Without ‘ripping photos from Google’, it can be extremely difficult to find that perfect image that matches your specific content…but there are options…

We go over the ‘why, how and where (and how much)’ of stock images.

Firstly, what do you mean by ‘stock images’?

Aka: stock photography. It means a library of images for public use with varying licences. These ‘libraries’ can act as marketplaces where photographers and image creators (known as contributors) interact online to buy and sell images to those in the market. Note that we say ‘images’ as they can be photos, graphics (known as ‘vectors’) or a combination.

The evolution of technology and fast internet connections have skyrocketed the industry.

The common types of stock image licences:

  1. Public Domain (PD): these images are free to use without purchasing a license.
  2. Royalty-free (RF): these are often a one-time purchase and can be used multiple times.
  3. Rights-managed (RM): these allow a one-time use of the photo as specified by the license

Why should I use them?

In a nutshell, the two oldest reasons in business: time and money.

Time: stock images are already created so there’s no waiting for photographers to line up shots.

Money: images that are PD or RF are often free or at least, far cheaper than hiring professional photographers.

In fact, often, the only reason not to use stock images is when you want a photo of yourself, specific people directly related to your business or bespoke products.

What about Google Images?

Simply searching for the kind of image you’d like and copy-pasting it from Google sounds awesome – except when you get taken to court. To use images, especially for commercial purposes, you must have permission from the copyright holder. This can lead to legal issues.

Furthermore, Google often embeds metadata in the images and knows when duplicates are published online. This can cause your page ranking to drop in search results.

There are millions of images… How do I choose one?

There are some basic rules of thumb that help in choosing the right photo or at least, knocking out the wrong ones. Take the following into consideration when choosing stock images for business:

Choose photos that ‘aren’t stock images’…
Using classic, cliche images that are common all over the place won’t fly according to experts. This means avoid using images you’d see in a quintessential business brochure. A woman with a headset smiling at the camera, business professionals jumping for joy or scientists staring intently at a beaker come to mind.

Make sure they are relevant…
Often, content producers go over the top and choose images that look great but aren’t related. A sad dog within an article about new tyres for example. Using ‘click bait’ style imagery can often annoy readers. A new Lamborghini that no one can afford near the title; ‘New Car’ is another example.

Try to keep it simple…
There are many amazing images that look great on their own but add confusion when placed within online content. Avoid ‘busy’ images that might leave viewers wondering ‘what’s going on there?’. If your audience is viewing your content on a Facebook newsfeed, for example, understanding the content needs to be simple and only cost a few seconds of their time.

Edit images if needed…
Cropping images to a portion that suits your content or adding text over areas can help. For example, if you’re selling houses and find a perfect photo of a family in a house – with a helicopter above it, chop out the chopper.

Best Free Options

There are literally millions of amazing free images that you can add to your content in seconds. With so many, you’ll likely find a good match unless you’re in need of something really specific.

Unsplash is a great option for those in a rush. Over a million images – all in high resolution, all free – you don’t even need to sign up. Relevant image categories include; current events, people, technology and architecture.

Videos Stock: No

Again – all free, all high resolution and you won’t need to sign up. Pexels offers over 1 million images. Relevant image categories include; people, emotions, friends and family.

Videos Stock: Yes

Like the two above, all free, all high resolution and no sign up needed. Relevant image categories include; office, landscapes, business.

Videos Stock: Yes

Tip: when searching for free images, open each of the above in a separate browser window or tab and search for images using all three.

Best Paid Options

Often, the difference between a paid image and a free option is the quality of the image. A nice smartphone photo and a professional image with correct lighting and zoom usually explain the difference.

iStock was founded in 2000. Having 20 years of experience, it’s always been a solid go-to for high quality images. The images are split into two types: Essential and Signature. Essential images are described as ‘everyday content’ and Signature images are ‘premium hand-picked stock’. In addition to images, iStock offers a large range of high quality videos too.

Cost: From $29 / month on a yearly plan. Individual images are also available with prices varying on popularity and contributor ranking.

You may have seen or heard of Shutterstock – another ‘big one’ in the stock image world. Shutterstock boasts a massive 300 million+ images with 200,000 added everyday. In addition to images, the platform offers videos and audio too.

Cost: Shutterstock offers monthly plans from $49 / month with no contracts (month by month payments) and on-demand packs too allowing you to purchase images as you need them.

Adobe Stock
Adobe is a big name in imagery. Adobe Stock lives up to its name by offering high-resolution professional images, HD and 4K videos and premium graphics suitable for professional business brochures and advertising material.

Cost: From $39.95 / month on a yearly plan. Credit packs are available too which allow you to purchase individual images.

Stock Videos

With ever-increasing internet connections, videos are becoming more and more usable. Stock videos are often used for backgrounds and add to ‘visual flow’. For example, content about new homes may include a continuous loop of drone footage over suburban homes. Another example may be when advertising how clients can save money – you may display a video loop of coins flowing.


At the end of the day, the idea is to get high-quality images, quickly and cheaply to match your content in order to attract viewers. Images can be used to optimise your Facebook Business Page or elevate your online presence. Luckily, ‘it’s the internet’ and there are numerous choices as to where you get those images and how you choose them.

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