• Chloe Bovia

Feeling Stuck? Try Stock Photos To Streamline Your Small Business Marketing

Updated: Oct 18

When you hear “stock photo,” what comes to mind? That generic white guy smiling while stapling some papers? You wouldn’t be wrong. Stock photos can be super cheesy, inauthentic, and just plain tacky. That said, they can also enhance your brand, establish your authority in the field, and make running your small business exponentially easier. Instead of frantically googling how much a brand photographer will be, or stealing images from Pinterest (more on that later), try these simple tips for leveraging the power of stock photos for your brand.

ipad with keyboard attachment sitting on wooden stool. iphone with blank screen sitting on top of ipad keyboard next to apple pencil.
© Chloe Bovia

Do's and Don'ts of Using Stock Photos

Take some time to map out everywhere your brand shows up, and what kind of imagery you may need. If you're a service provider, for example, you might have a website, a glossgenius/acuity/etc. setup, social media, ads, and email list, and flyers.


  • Use stock photos on headers, social media posts, and other places where you just need some generic backgrounds or aesthetics

  • Use photos that depict your target audience to show them that you want to work with them.

  • Find photos that match your current aesthetic

  • Credit the original creator when possible. It's the kind thing to do and it's a chance to increase the visibility of your brand if they decide to share it as well.

  • Use the right size photos for your project. The resolution should be at least 72dpi for web use and around 1600 pixels in length on the long side if you're using a photo for a website. This keeps the photo from being too big and making your website slow. For print products, make sure you download the high-resolution version (at 300dpi). No idea what any of these words mean? Email me, beloved.


  • Use stock photos where specific photos of your services are needed i.e. reviews, service options, etc.

  • Use stock photos that don't look like your target audience. This creates a disconnect with your current and potential customers.

  • Add filters or edit stock photos. It's respectful to the photographer, but it also keeps the photo from looking distorted or overprocessed.

  • Insinuate that you are the creator of the photo or the person in it. That's just straight up deception and intellectual property theft.

  • Go outside of the appropriate license use for a photo (see below)

  • Use screenshotted images from Pinterest or other websites. Besides the low quality, it also minimizes the likelihood that the original creator will get credit.

Get Your Stock Photos the Right Way

Close the google image search tab immediately. I will pop your hand RIGHT NOW if I see you download an image with the watermark on it. That is a seriously bad look for your brand and can do a lot of harm to your reputation. So where does one find good stock photos without having to get yet another subscription? These sites are some of my favorites (because even as a photographer, I have to use the occasional stock photo):

  • Unsplash - these are unique, creative, very stylized stock photos that will really upgrade the aesthetic of your brand. When I'm in my graphic designer bag, I use Unplash all the time to beef up a flyer or website if the brand doesn't have their own trove of photos yet. Something cool? You can download my stock photos for free there too! Whenever possible, remember to tag the creator. That's how we grow our businesses too!

  • CreateHer - I said no subscriptions, but this one is worth it. I love CreateHer stock because it centers Black women.

  • Nappy.Co - for free and beautifully melanated stock photos, check out Nappy.Co. I like the breadth of photos they have and how they make Black skin glow. Truly refreshing and a beautiful aesthetic.

  • Creative Market - it's like the Etsy of creative assets (although etsy is actually a great place for creative stuff too). Creators upload things that they've made, includling stock photos, and you get to choose what you like, download it at a cost that makes sense for your business, and go on about your day! The website also has weekly free assets that sometimes include photos, check them out!

Understanding Personal vs. Commercial Use

Always ALWAYS check the license for any creative assets you use, especially things like photos. A license determines if and how you can use something. Before I get into this short explanation, please note that I am a photographer, NOT a lawyer or any sort of arbiter of the law. Double check my facts, ok?

Anyway, a personal license typically only allows you to use something for personal use aka things that will NOT earn you money.

A commercial license will generally allow using an asset (e.g. a photo) for business reasons aka things that will bring you money. That could look like using a photo on your business website, in a Facebook ad, in a lead magnet, etc.

Before using an asset, get clear on the license - it will tell you how many times you can use a product (yes, this is a thing), where and how it can be used, how to credit the author/creator if necessary. Sure, you can get away with not doing that, but is that the kind of person you want to be? Someone who steals content?

Customize Your Brand Content with Bovia & Co. Photography

Stock photos are great, incredibly useful, and limited. Once your stock photos have reached their limits, it's time to clear the gap with your own branded photos. When you're ready to make that investment in your business growth, hit us up. We do tailored brand photoshoots to give you fresh, scroll-stopping content for your growing business. As storytellers, we know what it takes to create imagery that speaks to the people who need what you've got. Schedule your creative consultation to get started today!