Choosing the Best Stock Photos for Your Project

2 November, 2017 | Ryan [simple-social-share]

Choosing the Best Stock Photos for Your Project

You want your stock imagery to look natural in your project, so it takes some careful thought. Read on to learn how to pick the best stock photos for you.

Why does it seem so hard to find the best stock photos for your project? After all, the internet provides us with so many options.

More than 600 billion photos are uploaded to the internet every year. There are bound to be some good stock photos in that gigantic pile, right? Right?

Sure, sorting through endless stock photos can be fun. But for some of us, stock photos are serious business.

Deciding between several photos can be difficult, and it may be even harder to find the right one. If you want to learn how you can choose the best stock photos for your design project, keep reading.

How to Search for the Best Stock Photos

As a successful designer, you’re always striving to do your best on every project. You’re well aware that the perfect stock photo can put your work over the top.

But the process of finding the best stock photos starts with conducting great searches.

When sifting through stock photos, make sure to take your time, and don’t rush the process. The best stock photos are rarely a last-minute decision. Besides, it no longer takes as long as it used to find relevant images.

Here a few tips you can use to save some time during your search for photos:

  • Take advantage of advanced search filters. Advanced search filter settings may vary from site to site, but these tools help you cut through the noise.
  • Be specific in your searches. In some cases, broad search terms are best. However, most of the time, using broad terms will lead to you wasting more time sifting through more images.
  • Use the “exclude keywords” feature. This is a great way to further narrow down your searches.
  • Sort results by relevance. Looking at the newest stock photos might seem appealing, but it’s not always best. Sorting your searches by relevance will get you closer to your goal.
  • Search for related terms, not the full title. For instance, if you’re looking for something related to speed, you can search for an image of a fast car. Get as creative as you can.
  • Use a thesaurus if you need to. Maybe you can’t think of a related term off that top of your head. If that’s the case, just use an online thesaurus to assist you in your search.

If you find your ideal photo right away, great! However, don’t settle for less. Choosing the best stock photos is critical.

Pay Attention to Contrast

Once you narrow down your search to a few photos that are relevant, you should start paying attention to specific details.

One most important factors you should consider is the contrast of your stock photo.

Ideally, you want your text to have high contrast with your image.

If you’re using white text, the last thing you want in a stock image is a lot of white. Conversely, you don’t want to use dark text with a dark image either.

So what is the best way to determine the color of your text?

You can refer to the color wheel for help. Try to use colors that are on opposite sides of the wheel in order to create a contrasting effect.

For instance, if the primary color of your stock photo is blue, you can use a complementary color like orange for the text.

But sometimes you will have trouble finding stock photos with good contrast. Furthermore, you may run into stock photos that are just too good to ignore.

So what do you do in this situation?

If you find yourself in either of these two scenarios, don’t fret. If you really need to, there is a way to get around this issue: color cast.

Color cast has become a very popular strategy for modern designers. It can be an extremely effective strategy for those trying to create contrast.

However, don’t force it. If color cast doesn’t flow with the rest of your page, opt for other photos instead. You can also blur the image if you wish.

Consider Emotions and Mood

The best stock photos for a job depends on what mood or feeling you’re attempting to convey.

Obviously, if you’re aiming for a happy feeling, then it’s best to stay away from colors or faces that are gloomy. That said, it goes much further beyond this.

If you’re designing something for a brand, for example, make sure that it matches the brand’s voice. Your images must appeal to the target audience.

Most good brands want to maintain a narrative. Even though you may find an image that looks good, check to see whether it supports the message of the brand.

Don’t Forget About Orientation

Many designers seem to ignore orientation until it’s too late.

Why is this step important?

Well, if you take care of this during the selection process, you won’t have to clone parts of the image in order to fake it.

So what orientation is best for you situation. Is it wide, tall, or square?

You can use the advanced search filters for this as well. It will make your job much easier.

There are certain things to consider if you’re designing a project for social media sites:

  • Use square images for Instagram or Facebook
  • Use tall photos for Pinterest
  • Use wide photos for Twitter

If you find a good wide photo, you can easily crop it to suit your square photo needs. You may run into some problems, however, if you try to turn a tall photo into a wide one.


Choosing the best stock photos doesn’t have to be difficult. There are many ways you can distinguish great stock photos from bad ones.

You want to utilize all your search tools to find a batch of photos that could work with your project. Then you want to narrow down your list, eliminating options that don’t suit your needs.

Stock photos have a significant impact on the quality of your work, so don’t skimp on them. Put your newfound knowledge to good use and get started on another fantastic project!

If you want to make it even easier on yourself, check out our blog for the newest graphics you can use for your project.


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