How to choose stock images for your brand

There’s no disputing that if you choose stock images strategically, they can be a useful tool to send clear messages and enhance the tone of your brand. But how do you choose stock images for your brand, specifically?

First things first

Before you do anything, ensure that you have a minimum of four core brand images that set your brand’s tone, reflect your colour palette, connect with your target audience and evoke the emotions you want your audience to feel when thinking about your brand. If you’re not quite sure what I’m on about, you should definitely check out this article on core branding images. Once you’re clear on those, follow these three steps:


    Start by searching for the key words that are most relevant. Be super obvious about what you’re searching for. For example, if you’re writing a blog post about dealing with toddler tantrums, you’d type in, “toddler”. If you’re looking for a beach background for a social media post about meditation, you would search for, “ocean”. Yep I know what you’re thinking, “duh, that’s so obvious!”… read on my friend.

    Be aware of what imagery aligns with your target audience. People connect with your images more effectively if they can relate to them on a personal level. For example, if you’re trying to attract Mums with bubs to your new café, don’t go flippantly throwing in an image of men in suits drinking espressos. 

    A handy tip… some stock photography websites (Stocksy and Shutterstock are two fab examples) include a filter where you can include or exclude people, then refine your search by gender, age, ethnicity etc. It’s super handy!


    Refine your search by adding adjectives to your key words. This filters out the images that aren’t relevant to your needs. For the toddler example: “toddler, crying”. For the beach background: “ocean, calm”.

    You can refine your search even further by either adding colours to the key words (e.g. “toddler, crying, red”), but usually you’ll find a colour picker where you can actually choose specific colours. This is perfect for aligning your images with your brand’s colour palette, particularly when they will be appearing in your Instagram feed or on your website where it is imperative to maintain a sense of harmony.

    Think about how you’re going to use your image. Are you going to add text over it? Easy! Be mindful to choose an image that has enough space for your copy. Does it need to be portrait or landscape? 


    Choose an image that aligns with the general tone of your brand. If the personality of your brand is zesty and bold, go for crisp images. If your brand is more calming and supportive, opt for images with a softer feel. Make sure your images align with your values, and the message you are sending.

    Remember the core branding images I mentioned at the start? This is when they come into their own. Compare your chosen image with your core branding images. Literally put them side by side on your computer screen. Do they work cohesively and flow harmoniously to tell your brand story? If yes, AWESOME! If not, well, back to the drawing board. Keep refining until you discover an image that looks like it belongs with your set of core branding images. It is integral to create a consistent look and feel for your brand in order to evoke trust.

Some stock photography sites that I love are:

Some free sites that come in handy for generic images are (be sure to check the licensing agreement to ensure you have permission to use these in the way that you intend to):

Have you got any questions? Looking for guidance in defining a beautiful look and feel for your brand, including stunning branding imagery? I’d love to help. Check out my branding packages, or let’s hook up for a free 15 minute virtual coffee (my shout!).

Chat to you soon!

Yours in caffeination,


Brand stylist / graphic designer / illustrator

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