4 Tips for choosing the right stock photo

While an abundance of images available on the Internet is helpful, there’s still quite a lot of nuances involved with choosing just the right one. As much as stock photo libraries are trying to provide a successful application of what they offer, it all depends on sound choices, skilful adjustments and the good taste of the designer. Here’s a list of helpful quick reminders for choosing the right image for one’s project.

The first question you should ask yourself is: Where is this image is going to be used? This defines a lot of the criteria, including format, style, quality, and even the color scheme.



The main issue here is the medium in which the picture is going to be used, and the type of content within that medium: full-width pictures for headers in Facebook or Medium will require one type of image, whereas sidebar banner ads or avatars for a public page have their own cachets.

Apart from the obvious picture ratio requirements, things like the medium’s cropping system should be taken into consideration: it’s well-known that Facebook, for example, tends to tamper with the quality, and crop certain images. It would be wise to keep tabs on the current set of requirements for each medium you make pictures for and occasionally check with a guide before you select your images.

If it’s a post, consider how easily the picture will be viewed on a small screen, whether the user will be able to see the whole picture in one scroll on their phone. This is especially if the image has any potential for creating an unwanted comical effect when seen in parts.

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If it’s an avatar for a public page, consider how it may look when appearing as a small avatar icon: will it be recognizable, will it look repulsive in some odd way,  it won’t look like a competitor’s avatar?


Color scheme

Picking the right colors to achieve more vibrant imagery, or to elicit a visceral response, combining the colored elements in a way which creates the right accents or makes certain elements pop. All of these constitute a science of their own, familiar to most professionals. What is often overlooked is how a particular image works with the color scheme of the environment it is posted in. The warm coffee-brown palette is generally perceived as a ‘cozy’ one, but it doesn’t mean it will work well for a site of some tech company with flat minimalistic design and bright corporate colors. Generally, of course, a company’s brand book can be very prescriptive about the palette it uses, and even if it’s not, the designer should strive to stick to one palette in the company’s online presence to maintain a consistent style, make pictures easily recognizable and avoid motley posts.

But even when acting within one fixed palette, one can mess up the combination. For example, these two colors are from the brand guidelines of the same company, and both are acceptable to use, but combining them simply doesn’t work.

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Apart from the standard rules of composition, something to consider here is presence of additional elements in the picture and how they combine. If you’re looking for a background image which will have text, icons or buttons overlaying, make sure to make it legible and easy on the eyes. The perfect stock photo in this case would have low contrast areas providing an even backdrop for your text or icons.

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An additional factor to keep in mind is the layout of the medium and the place your image will be taking. Perfect in every other regard, a cover photo can lose out on the focus if an element of the interface of the medium blocks a part of it, or works badly with the neighbouring images.




Today there are a lot of various stock photo libraries to choose from, the trick is to choose the one that works best for you and to know how to search for it.

A good way of searching through abstract entries like “time management” is expanding the pool of results. In addition to looking up “time management” try searching a library for subjects which relate to it, like “clock”, “running late”, “sundial” etc. Looking through related images or trying synonyms can also expand the pool of results, so don’t shun the Thesaurus.

As to choosing a particular library, the most important thing to remember is that not all stock photos are royalty-free. While many of the services are affordable, with some being specialized in certain topics or types of content, like Foodiesfeed, others provide a wide variety of images and even videos on all sorts of topics, like Depositphotos. The additional advantage of the latter is that not only the impressive 60 million stock pictures from Depositphotos are royalty-free, but it might also be the library of choice for in-house designers looking for convenient enterprise plans.

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