Make Your Stock Photos Stand Out With These 10 Tips

June 30, 2013 by

There is no fashion faux pas worse than wearing the same outfit as your best friend to a party, so why would you want to use the same generic photos as your competitor in your content marketing? Not everyone has the budget (or the time) to seek out unique photos for websites, blogs, and brochures. Luckily, there are tricks for making stock images stand out.

1. Dig Deep

EmptyRoomDo not choose the first photo you find in the stock photo bin. Most search results begin with the most popular images.  Instead, take time to dig deep through the search results. If your company can afford it, subscribe to a service like PhotoSpin or Bigstock. Various stock sites have different types of subscription plans, and it’s well worth allocating a portion of your budget to have a unique pool of images to draw from.

Get creative. Are you writing about bankruptcy? Rather than choosing a photo depicting a dollar sign or two people sitting at a desk, try using an image of an empty room in a monochrome color.

2. Avoid Faces

SameFaceSome days, it seems as though the same model represents every website. Who is that blonde? She’s the model for XYZ Inc., CBA LLC, and your business. Oops!

Avoid using the same models as competitors do. Not only does such a gaffe scream, “I used a stock photo service for this post,” but it also sends the wrong impression to prospective customers. When not using images of staff members, try to avoid photos with faces. If a face portrait is necessary or desired, research first and choose a different model from competitors to avoid confusion – and utilize other techniques to make the image look more unique (see tip #9).

3. Crop The Photo

CropFenceYou don’t need to use the whole photo you downloaded. Instead, focus on the most attractive part of the image and cut the photo down to that. Not only will this highlight the message you would like to convey, but it will also help your photo stand out in the crowd. It is less likely that others will crop the same area, if they crop the photo at all.

Play with the cropping feature and use other techniques. For example, after cropping an image of a fence to a finial, I could choose to blur the background while keeping the foreground in focus. Little details like these customize the image to your content.

4. Highlight A Specific Area Of The Photo

HighlightExCropping is a great tool for drawing attention to a specific area, but there are other techniques for doing the same thing. For example, one could blur out part of the image while keeping a central part in perfect focus in order to draw the eye in.

There are many filter effects available in programs like Photoshop that allow even the most inexperienced designer to create fun effects highlighting a focal point. In the sample image below, I chose to highlight the fence, thinking about a possible article about breaking down barriers to communication. I chose to use the Liquify filter in Photoshop to call attention to the fence, allowing trees and grass to “melt” into the background.

5. Create A Custom Collage

Create a collage of stock photos. Select a group of related photos and paste them onto a new page. Cropping, highlighting, or adding overlay text are all ways to jazz up a collage. Add lines, drop shadows, and other creative program elements to help make the individual images stand out. Try copying and pasting different elements from the same photo in scattered order in order to create a mosaic effect.

6. Pull Together Elements From Different Images

PuzzleConsider creating a new image from two or more images. Combine photos with ink drawings and vector art. Create an overlay frame for another photo. Play with portraits by stringing together the eyes and forehead from one person, nose from a second, and mouth from a third.

You can also put together an image that is a mish-mash of different elements clipped from several images using the lasso tool. In this examples, I cut out an area of a photo, then copied the image and pasted it over another image sized and cropped to fit.

7. Create A Text Overlay

10 Tips For Making Stock Photos Look Less Stock-PhotoishThe best Internet memes have great images coupled with witty comments or salient quotations. A text overlay can convey a summary of the text, a snarky reaction to a current event, a famous quote, or a joke. Think about how popular Grumpy Cat became overnight through sharing on Facebook.

Not sure what you should use as your text message? Try something as simple as the article title. This makes for an excellent image to share on social media sites such as Pinterest, Google Plus, and Facebook.

8. Imitate A Cookie Cutter

Cut out a single element of an image, and paste it multiple times in a new file. Rotate the cutout to create a new pattern or design. While you might be using a generic photo to accompany your content, the design will have an original feel.

9. Play With Color

ColorExChange a colored photo into a black and white or sepia-toned image. Create an overlay in a company color after turning the photo into a grayscale image.

A fun trick to make an image stand out combines highlighting with color play. Choose an element in the image to focus on, select it with the magic wand tool, and fill it in with a different color. Change the rest of the image to black and white or sepia in order to make the selected are stand out more.

In the example, I selected the lighter colors with the magic wand and then turned those areas into a black and white image, leaving the high impact colors alone.

10. Play With Effects

Turn a scene into a faux-oil painting, an ink sketch, or even a pixelated image using various photo-editing tools. Cropping a photo first and adding two or three effects can completely change the feel of an image. Not only can playing with effects soften the image, but it can also create an image that truly reflects the message you would like to get across in your post.

How do you make the stock photos you use stand out from the crowd? Do you opt for easier techniques to manipulate downloaded images due to time constraints? It can be as easy or challenging as you like to alter images to make your blog and website look more original. Share your own tips for making stock images seem fresh.

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