How to Find the Best Stock Images for Your Marketing Needs

By on October 28, 2019


Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Hospitality and wedding marketing depends on quality imagery. And despite the bad rap, stock imagery can still deliver. Designers and marketers for hotels, resorts, destination marketing organizations (DMOs), and other hospitality companies demand gorgeous imagery that fits their brands like a glove. Print materials like brochures, magazines, and collateral as well as websites, social media, ads, and other digital media all require sourcing the right photos that meet design standards and business needs. With that in mind, here are a few time-saving tips to help others in the hospitality and wedding marketing world find the perfect photos.

Understand the Rules

Just because it’s easy to right click and “save as” doesn’t mean it’s legal. If you stumble upon a photo you like, make sure to check the restrictions for not just the website as a whole, but on the specific photo itself. Curtis Newbold created an excellent infographic called “Can I Use that Picture?” that illustrates when it’s OK to use an image. 

Stock Sites to Consider

There are dozens of sites that offer millions of royalty-free stock images illustrations, vectors, and videos in a staggering range of categories, sizes, and formats available for purchase. Some of the major players include Shutterstock, Getty Images, and Adobe Stock. These sites feature curated gallery categories and search-friendly functionality to help make the process of narrowing your search and finding just the right image as quick and easy as possible. Once you find what you need, you have options: These stock sites a variety of choices to to fit all types of needs and budgets, including on-demand, pricing packages, and subscriptions.

Then there are the free stock image contenders, which are also plentiful and varied. The Unsplash (550,000+ photos), Pixabay (1.5 million+ photos), Pexels (hundreds of thousands of handpicked images), and StockSnap (handpicked images, similar to Pexels) libraries have thousands of free (as in “use for whatever you want”) photos to search through, with more added intermittently. You can choose to give the photographers credit, but you’re not required to.

“Why would I pay if there are so many free stock image sites?” Great (and complicated) question. Beyond the obvious (budget!), there are many other factors to consider when deciding which stock image sources to use – including usage rights, the quantity, variety, and quality of images offered, your creative purposes and goals, and risk tolerance, to name a few. This question warrants a whole discussion on its own and is covered in many articles and forums including this one. 

Three Pointers for Finding the Right Images

  1. Be Literal: Can you represent the actual thing that you’re talking about? For example: If the content is about the Santa Monica beach, go to the stock sites and search for photos of the actual place that fit the aesthetic you’re aiming for. If you can’t find any up to snuff, move to the second strategy.
  2. Focus on a Detail: Try picking a detail within the content or page and finding an image based on that. For example, sticking with the Santa Monica beach example, you could look for an image of a surfer paddling out on water that could be in Santa Monica. Or, maybe it’s a close-up of a blue wave, or underwater, or street scene that all could naturally be associated with Santa Monica. Regardless of what you choose, what’s equally (and oftentimes, more) important than the subject is that the lighting has to fit the mood, the photo has to be on-brand, and the quality is as important as anything else.
  3. Highlight the Abstract: Maybe the story doesn’t have any image-worthy details, like a story about Santa Monica would. In that case, you could get a little more abstract. Try using a photo to convey an emotion that the story is also trying to convey. Does the story talk broadly about an experience or emotion that you can somehow get at with a photo? Surprise the reader, and let them make the mental connection.

Now that you have the tools to find all the best stock images for your marketing needs, learn about trends in images by reading about how geometric shapes offer a fresh way to liven up images you’ve used before and highlight the best elements of your marketing at: Design Trend: Geometric Shapes

About Jessica Kaiser

Jess single-handedly launched the full-service hospitality marketing agency, Hawthorn Creative, in 2001 and serves as their CEO and head coach to this day. She has a proven track record of rolling up her sleeves and helping resorts, event venues, and destinations spark connections with their guests through forward-thinking design, content, and strategy. From industry giants like Four Seasons and Fairmont to boutique hotels and independent venues, Jess is best known for educating, supporting, and inspiring brands to market smarter and drive more business. For more articles like this, be sure to check out the Hawthorn Blog.
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