I'll be totally frank with you - I used to think that stock photos were a cope out. A lazy, illegitimate, unauthentic way of obtaining and sharing photos. And you know what? That way of thinking was crap. Like many entrepreneurs in the digital space (so, uh, everyone?), I wanted my site and social media accounts to be visually appealing, stimulating and cohesive. I enjoy photography as a hobby, but I never felt the desire to pursue it as an integral piece of my work. About a year ago, I decided stock photos made the most sense for my goals for Sesh and I have never looked back.
Why use stock photos?
Stock photos have saved me SO MUCH TIME. I used to spend hours planning shoots, styling shoots, setting up shoots, actually shooting the photoshoots, editing shoots. I enjoyed it to an extent, but it wasn't getting me much closer to my goals. For Sesh, stock photos integrated easily into my business objectives.
The other reason why I use stock photos is because it makes achieving a cohesive look so attainable. When shooting my own visual content, I was constantly seeking props which fit the brand's colors, themes and style. I always had one eye wandering when out and about for that perfectly suited background or photographic situation. For me personally, it became quite exhausting. With the stock services I use, I can be strategic with my visual content without it taking up my every waking thought.
What can stock photos be used for?
Stock photos can be used for pretty much everything from social media to websites to print materials. You can even manipulate stock photos with graphics and text for a more specific look by using apps such as Canva or A Color Story. You will need to check each stock site individually because they all have different licensing agreements, standards and rules. Some may have different terms and prices for printed materials.
To pay or not to pay?
For regular use and guaranteed brand fit, I say expect to pay. You can of course find some ways around though if you're willing to spend the extra time on it. Some sites like Death to Stock and others offer freebie photo packs when you sign up for their emails. The chances of these free photos resonating with your brand is slim however.
Where to find good stock photos?
This is the question of the hour. I imagine it's probably why you're reading this post to begin with, so let's not waste another moment. The top two resources that I use regularly through paid subscription accounts are Adobe Stock and the Bloguettes stock service, Stock that Rocks. It goes without saying, but do read the terms of service for each site. Most sites do not require a contract, but some, like Adobe Stock, have a minimum amount of required time you must subscribe before cancelling without incurring a cancellation fee. See below for more information about each service.
For Adobe Stock, I pay $30 a month for 10 images and what I do not use, rolls over to the next month. I like Adobe Stock because their options are limitless. This can also be a con however, because the range of quality goes from cheesy used-car-dealership-style to instagrammable influencer hit. The ticket to mastering Adobe Stock is the keyword search function. Know the keywords of what you need and know your brand colors. Use the filtering function to separate unrelated media and fine tune what you want, and you will increase your chance of striking stock photo gold.
Stock that Rocks is perfect for female entrepreneurs in the digital space who want that classic minimalist Instagram look. In the case of Sesh, our brand is clean, sophisticated, organic and minimalist and fits in nicely with the Stock that Rocks photo styling. Their stock photos resonate with our brand, so it was a seamless fit. I've been extremely pleased with the quality and content of the photos and they also add new themes regularly.
Stock that Rocks has two subscription options depending on your need. The first is their unlimited stock subscription which is $75 a month. I don't have a need for that many photos and the price is more than Sesh can afford, so I have the $29 B-School subscription which includes 15 photos a month (use them or lose them) and access to special content. Honestly, I am in it mostly for the photos, but if you are a blogger or other digital entrepreneur, I could see the extra content being a major plus. The con of Stock that Rocks is the site's functionality. It can be really slow transitioning from page to page. According to the site's pop-up, the owners are updating the site, so hopefully the bandwidth will be increased too.
Other Sites I have Used in the Past
Of course, this list isn't exhaustive. If you use stock photos, please share your favorite services and sites in the comments below!