Today we’re diving into a MUCH requested topic — the visual side of your marketing and business — a.k.a. the images and videos you use on your website and throughout your marketing. This is so important, right? We know that. We are visual creatures and that is true now more than ever. Gone are the days where you can have a website with no images or social media or any other part of your business without using images. The images and videos we use in our businesses express who we are as a brand, they might resonate with our buyers or they might not, and they are a vital part of content creation which we know drives sales.
Things we’re covering today:
- What even is a stock photo, and how it’s different from customized brand photography
- What to look for when using stock photography (and what to avoid)
- My favorite stock photography company! Yes, I’ll just tell you exactly what I use so you can use it too.
- Where I recommend using stock photography versus photos customized to your brand (and what I do in my own business for this) and how to integrate the 2 seamlessly into your marketing!
LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE NOW:
You can't do a photo shoot for every image/video you need as a business owner.
To start, let me say — it's unrealistic to think that as a business owner, every single image or video you use in your marketing or other content will be something made specifically for your business. This would mean a lot of photoshoots and video shoots with a brand photographer.
I am ALL ABOUT working with brand photographers for our businesses. I've done multiple episodes on this about planning for brand shoots.
But, even with brand shoots, you'll likely need MORE images/videos in today's world. I know I do! It would be best if you also had pictures/videos where you are not the key model or focal point of what's happening.
Often we can't necessarily shoot with a photographer to get as many photos/videos as we need. For example: if I want images to show a "celebration happening" among a group of friends to go with a podcast episode about community, that is going to be tough for me to shoot myself. I also don't need a ton of those images, so gathering my pals to do a professional photoshoot to get these images is unrealistic and unnecessary.
So enter Stock Photography!
If you're like, "Wait, what is that?!" Stock photos are already taken images by a photographer that you can then buy (or possibly download for free) to use in your own projects without having to hire a photographer yourself, which saves money and time. These images or videos are already taken, edited, and ready for use.
Something cool about finding a stock image you like (at least with paid stock photography) is that the pictures are done in photoshoots. So, you might find one image you like but wish that it was horizontal, not vertical, or wish that it was farther away instead of so close, and typically there are multiple variations for you to work with. If you don't live under a rock, you have seen a stock photo somewhere! They are everywhere and some are more “obvious” than others.
Stock photos sometimes get a bad rap as being cheesy or having a particular "look" to them. There's an Instagram account I LOVE following that uses those cheesy stock images constantly – look up "middle-class fancy" on Instagram if you want to see what I mean. That “cheesy look” is when the model is looking at the camera, in front of a white background, and has a "fake" feeling that is not personalized to that business. Then there's GOOD stock photography, which I use in my own business and recommend you use.
So, how do you find GOOD stock photography for your business?
What to look for:
(no particular order)
- LOOK FOR: Different versions of images/videos, so you have options. It's really helpful not just to use a "one-off image" but instead one that is a whole collection of similar images.
- LOOK FOR: Images that feel like they could have been taken for your business but just weren't. THIS IS EVERYTHING with stock photography! The images you use should have a custom vibe and go with your brand colors to blend seamlessly into your brand.
- LOOK FOR: Diversity of people — and I mean this in every way. Diversity of skin color, age, size, everything! This is huge. Some stock photo companies are lacking in this area.
- LOOK FOR: Not an image you feel you've seen 100,000 times on the internet that is clearly a stock image.
- LOOK FOR: Images/videos that convey the emotional reaction or feeling you want to go with whatever it is you're sharing. For example, I've used stock images a few times when someone is frustrated at their computer to go with a course lesson about dealing with a difficult client. I've also used stock images that would resonate with a working mom because it's her baby snuggled up to her while she's working at home on her laptop.
What to avoid in stock photography—
- AVOID: Images that don't flow together because they're all taken in different styles of photography, different lighting, etc. When you start using these in your brand, there becomes a disconnect.
- AVOID: All the white background with the person sitting in front of the computer smiling cheesily at the camera. It doesn't work and won't FEEL like your brand, probably ever. It feels like a meme.
If you're thinking — Elizabeth, what do YOU use and recommend, though? I want to go with that.
I am happy to share that with you! I use Haute Stock. I've been using their images and videos on my website and in my marketing since early 2020 - so almost three years now. They fit all of the criteria I'm laying out for you and then some. You've seen me use their stuff over and over again probably, and this subscription is a KEY for me not to have to do brand photoshoots all the time but still have on-brand images to use.
I have only done ONE photoshoot all year due to life with becoming a new mom and working less. So it hasn't been a big priority right now, but I still have plenty of images to use in my business. Over 8,000, in fact — and that number is constantly growing because Haute Stock is always adding new content to the library!
As a Breakthrough Brand Podcast listener, Haute Stock has hooked you up with a deal to get 15% off your subscription with the referral code: ELIZABETH at checkout or by visiting this link: https://elizabethmccravy.com/hautestock.
How to use it:
Once you join Haute Stock, you can access over 8,000 images/videos. They are constantly adding more. And a cool thing worth noting — it truly isn't just images. They have tons of videos, too, that are oriented for social media and horizontally oriented for websites. So you'll get both, and these videos typically have a b-roll footage vibe where you can seamlessly integrate them into your brand.
As a Haute Stock member, you can quickly download photos, videos, and even marketing templates for your business. Then, you can favorite the things you want to return to within your account. In addition, you can search based on things like the colors used in the image or video, if there are people in it or not, tech in it, and a bunch of other cool things.
It's pretty amazing! I regularly will go into my account and be able to quickly search for something like a “video using my brand colors that does not have people in it and is a vertical orientation” and find exactly what I am looking for.
Plus, you can use their Couture Curation Service when you're a member. You submit a request with your specific brand info like colors, audience, keywords, etc., and their team will go into the library and personally select imagery based on your branding. You'll get upwards of 100 photos that fit your brand vibe + a PDF with a mood board, additional keywords/categories to search, etc. This is VERY COOL and helpful if you're looking at all those images feeling like you don't know where to start.
NOW… Let's talk about where you can use stock photography versus where it should be customized branded photography.
We need to see YOU these spots:
- On your website — you need some photos of YOU AND YOUR BRAND. I love stock photography, but I feel strongly about this one. You can't have a website that is only stock images, and especially on your about page, you need an image of you or you and your team (whatever makes sense for your business) because people need to see the face behind the company.
- On social media — I believe you need to show your face. Whether that's in the occasional (or frequent) Reels, Stories, or posts to your feed with images of you. I do all 3 of those! That's a nice thing about social media these days. There has been a trend toward LESS curated imagery and more just "showing up" content. So you can be present on social media without feeling like you need a professional photographer following you around.
Places you can (and should) use stock photography:
These are ALL places where I use Haute Stock images and videos in my business.
- On your website: stock photography is particularly great for sales pages!
- On your social media - as the main image/video or for covers on reels, TikToks, backgrounds with your stuff over it, etc.
- For Pinterest graphics
- For YouTube cover images
- For graphics within your paid content:
- Course lesson cover images
- Facebook group covers
- Community posts in your Facebook groups
- Within the PowerPoint for your training/course
- In lead magnets
- For webinar graphics
- For event powerpoints
- For Facebook ads
This is just a starting point, but there are so many other spots to consider!
So, how do you integrate the stock images in all of those places with images from brand photoshoots you've done over the years?
First, you need to use quality stock images that match the criteria I laid out. And you focus on images that match your brand's aesthetic. It's okay if a viewer "knows" that it isn't an image you commissioned. For example, during my recent Booked Out Week promotional period, I used Haute Stock videos of 3 women toasting champagne in party clothes.
People probably know that it wasn't me and my friends doing this video or real Booked Out Designer students. However, it doesn't matter. It conveyed the emotion I was going for of celebrating the program and people joining it. It fit into my brand vibes and was engaging to watch while still being professional!
My advice is that it's a back-and-forth. It's not all stock images and not all images of you that you shot for your brand. So in your mind, see it as a back-and-forth—some stock images here, some brand images there. For video stuff on your website (video as background), you can LEAN on stock video a lot more, and it works fantastic! Go with your gut and your own creative eye on what to use where.
That is it, friends! I hope this helps you and gives you a jumping-off point on using stock photography and videography for your business. I can't recommend using stock photography enough to take STRESS off the content creation process and help you have more imagery to work with.
Thanks to our podcast/blog sponsor, Haute Stock! Haute Stock is my favorite stock photo company, and I use their images ALL over my business. You can get 15% off your subscription with the referral code: ELIZABETH.
And do let me know if you join! Also, tell me your favorite image collection; I'd love to know. My answer to that is constantly changing because, as I said - they are always adding AMAZING new images and videos!
December 6, 2022