Visuals are a powerful expression of your brand story that should be thoughtfully crafted and curated to ensure your brand is effectively portrayed. Stock images are so ubiquitous today that they often fail to capture the true essence of the brands they represent. Photography can be a fantastic tool to tell your brand story, but combing through the billions of stock photos to find the gems can be a real hassle. Try one of our stock image alternatives to supercharge your visual messaging.

You’ve seen these before.

There’s the group of happy coworkers leaping in the air for joy. There’s the active grandparent running a marathon without a hint of sweat on their brow. There’s the twenty-something on their laptop with a perfect latte, pencil and untouched notebook. If you’ve seen it before, so has your audience. Your brand can stand out further by augmenting your photography collection with a mix of unique visual alternatives.

Try one of these awesome stock image alternatives.

  1. Hand lettering. Buck the clean modern lines and give life to the most powerful words in your messaging.
  2. Illustration. Whether vector or hand-drawn, illustrations can convey complex ideas that are relatable, unique and conceptually interesting.
  3. Iconography. These tiny illustrations or marks pack a visual punch that can guide the viewer or reinforce a concept.
  4. Animation. While less accessible than other mediums, even simple animations can bring tremendous life to a narrative. From a subtle line motion to a fully rendered scene, animation can convey complex ideas in the most eye-catching and shareable form factor.
  5. Colored pencil drawings. Expressive and vibrant, pencil work looks tactile, and can express an authentic and welcoming tone.
  6. Dark pen scribbles. For a brand that wants to look raw and high energy, rough pen work can capture the eye in a way uncommon to cleaner mediums.
  7. Watercolor. For a soft and inviting visual expression that can be airy, joyful and muted.
  8. Folded paper. There’s a folding pattern (sometimes known as Origami) for nearly any concept you can imagine. Make the folds and take a well lit shot against a white backdrop for a totally original visual expression for your brand.

If you’re set on using photography to express your message, follow these rules:

  1. Find images that are naturally lit, and avoid the soft lighting and blur effects.
  2. Seek realistic looking people with natural blemishes and qwerks.
  3. For headshots, find natural expressions like a subtle smirk, a downward contemplative stare, or a wise and knowing glance. Big smiles rarely look authentic.
  4. Food shots tend to look super staged because they are. Seek out images that are ultra minimal. Let the food shine with neutral dishware and the occasional pop of linen for color.
  5. If a shot looks staged it might come across as phony to your audience. Candid shots are best to capture life’s organic moments.

Stock image resources that don’t totally blow.

  • Death To Stock. Good quality, small selection. $15 monthly unlimited.
  • UnSplash. Indie quality, good selection. Free.
  • Pexels. A tad more commercial, good selection. Free

Wrapping up.

Stock photography is ubiquitous in marketing, but most of it looks like it was generated from a robot. Great photography is worth seeking out, but stock image alternatives can elevate the power of your visual communications to inspire and activate your audience. Leap past your industry peers by looking totally unique.

Take action

Let’s chat about your business and branding objectives. Book a consultation with me.

This post is part of “Your Best 2019” guidebook presented by qwerkal.