Choosing the Right Stock Imagery

May 7, 2021

Choosing the Right Stock Imagery

The online world is filled with numerous pictures, many of which are free stock photos you can use for any of your projects. However, the problem starts not because you cannot find a picture. Likely, there are just too many pictures to pick from.

Should you choose one that looks the most colourful or pick the ones that look simple? Questions like these will fill your mind whenever you are on the hunt for pictures. This article will share some tips on how to pick the perfect stock photos for your projects.

1. Pick a picture that supports the message

Regardless of what picture you pick, always make sure that it supports the message. Even a perfectly sized photo with the best colours will be of no use if it has zero relevance to the message it is supposed to support. With that in mind, look for pictures that can grab the viewer's attention without distracting. A distracting picture will take away from the message and hurt your goals for the material.

"It takes about 50 milliseconds (ms) (that’s 0.05 seconds) for users to form an opinion about your website that determines whether they’ll stay or leave." (CXL, 2019)

For charities and not-for-profits this is particularly important. When selecting an image, consider 'does it embody our values, mission and vision'? Is it clear from that one image to the reader what we do. First impressions are important. Website users form their initial impressions of your site in the first 50 milliseconds. With that in mind it is even more crucial to ensure your imagery clearly speaks to your organisation.

The Royal British Legion's innovative use of a blended modern and old image helps display not only their mission, but also their work across a century.

2. Consider the shape and size of the photo

The size, orientation, and shape of the photo are parts of it you must not neglect. It will affect how it looks wherever you decide to post it. On some online platforms, you will be limited to the dimensions you can use.

For example, Instagram works well with square pictures, while Twitter works well with picture ratios of 16:9. Although most platforms will support just about any shape and size of the picture, its cropping can also affect how the picture looks, so be mindful of the final result when you crop a photo.

3. Know where you want to place the picture

There's literally a limitless amount of ways you can place a picture on a surface, and it is vital to choose the right position. For example, if you want to place pictures in a blog post, you can look for full-width images to create a "border" or to attract attention. You can also use right-aligned or left-aligned pictures to support the message you are sharing, and you can even use pictures as a background if you wish.

Keep in mind that where your picture goes will affect what kind of photos you pick. If you want them to be on the sides, you may want a picture that works as a standalone. If you want something to cover the top or bottom of the post, then a wider picture is a must.

For example, when using images of people consider where the eyes of the subject are pointing towards. You will find most users subconsciously find their eyes are drawn towards the same spot.

The eyes of the main subject (on the right of the image) are pointing left. Key content and information would therefore be best placed on the left of the screen to attract the user's full attention.


Apart from what was mentioned above, there are many other things to consider when picking picturea. Everything from colours that evoke certain emotions to knowing which parts of the pictures contrast well with text—all of these can go a long way towards better delivery of your messages.

That being said, take the time to pick the right pictures from stock photo services. The wrong photos will give bad impressions about your project, and the last thing you want to happen is a failed project because of a picture!

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