5 Things to Consider Before Using Free Stock Photos

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When I say stock photos, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?

An HD photo of the Himalayas or may be of a man having his morning coffee in some restaurant in Budapest.

More so, I used to think that all stock photos come with a price tag; that none of them are free. But that was my understanding ages ago.

Little did I know that I was fated for this industry. Now, after many years of experience in the stock photo industry, I’ve learned a lot.

Without powerful illustrations and stock photos, the message of any campaign will fail to reach its target audience. So, stock photos have become a permanent part of my life (for now, at least).

Nowadays, there are some excellent resources that provide stock photos free of cost.

But, is getting access to these free stock photos enough to use them successfully for your project or campaign?

Also, is it safe to use images from free photo websites?

You need to know some more things; things you should do and things you should not do to reap real benefits and success from using free stock photos safely.

Let’s dig right in.

1. Check Licensing Details

The problem with using images from free photo sites is that many of these sites do not have proper policing procedures to ensure the images are from the copyright holders.

Let’s suppose you end up using an image that was stolen and submitted to one of these free photo sites. In that case, you would be infringing copyright laws and could face litigation issues.

Also, many users submit photos on these sites where faces of people are recognizable. You might not be aware but photographers need to have a legally signed document called a “model release” before submitting these images to stock photo sites.

So it’s never a good idea to use images from free photo sites where people’s faces are visible.

Also, it’s important that you always check out the terms & conditions and licensing details before using stock images from these sites.

You might not be aware that the licensing details mention that the license doesn’t include the right to use images where people are recognizable.

Also, the licensing doesn’t cover trademarks or logos that appear in photos. In such cases, you need permission from the brand before using the photo.

2. Use Images That Complement Your Brand

Heed my words and never forget them; do not use irrelevant images just as fillers.

If you really need to fill up an empty slot in your design, take your time and find an image that best suits your brand’s ideology or project’s theme.

The stock photos you use must tell your story to your audience. It should fit in with the aura of your brand. You must never hop out of your theme if you do not want your customers to remember you as “less authentic”.

Also, try taking your own photographs if possible. Mix and match your photographs and free stock photos to reap the ultimate effectiveness.

3. Edit or Modify Images Whenever Necessary

Remember that time when you looked at another brand’s social media post and said, “Damn! How are these guys doing this?”

Well, the answer is pretty simple; they are using some photo editing and manipulation software or platform. This software/platform can craft an amazing poster out of a dull photograph if they have the right think tank at hand.

If you are not using any image editing software, start now, because all your competitors are doing it already. They work great to ensure you get the right design prior to printing brochures. No matter how amazing your product maybe, if you do not present it in the right way, you will probably lose this marathon.

You can easily get this type of software online. A good photo-editing platform will help you spice up the public image of your brand.

4. Your Images Must Relate With Your Target Audience

I cannot put enough emphasis on this. Your customer MUST be the hero of the story you are going to tell. You probably think that what does this mean exactly.

Well, any story’s hero is its main character, and the entire story revolves around that individual. That’s exactly what your target audience should feel when they look at a piece of an advertisement on your product.

Like, it’s specifically for him or her. For this, you must know your audience and the market trends.

The images you use must reflect a problem they are facing or maybe, a solution to their problem. It must relate and connect to the emotions of your customers. You must never sell a product; you should be selling emotions. And visuals appeal a lot more to the emotion than words or sound. So, use images that relate to your audience’s daily life.

5. Choose the Right Website

Several sites provide free stock photos for personal and commercial use. Mainly the sites that top this list include; Unsplash, Pexels, Pixabay, Morgue File, etc.

However, using photos from these sites is not a hundred percent risk-free. A better option is to consider using images from cheap stock photo sites that ensure proper verification of the copyright holder.

Also, you must always avoid using Google images. Most of the initial results that appear in a Google image search are paid advertisements by stock photo agencies. And if you end up using an image, you could face legal consequences.

Choosing the right site will help you save time and easily access the best quality stock photos. Choosing stock photos is not an easy task, and you should never be hasty about it, especially when you are working for your or your client’s brand because the visuals you use will become your identity – something for your audience to remember you by.


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