What to Know About Finding Good (and Free!) Stock Images for Your Marketing Needs

Hospitality and wedding marketing depends on quality imagery. And despite the bad rap, stock imagery can still deliver. Our in-house photo editor helps you learn how.

Our work demands that we find gorgeous imagery that fits our clients’ brands like a glove. Products like event brochures, custom magazines, content marketing, and website design require that we source the right photos that meet our lofty design standards as well as our clients’ business needs. With that in mind, we wanted to share a few time-saving tips to help others in the hospitality and wedding marketing world find the perfect photos.

Understand the Rules

Just because it’s easy to right click and “save as” doesn’t mean it’s legal. If you stumble upon a photo you like, make sure to check the restrictions for not just the website as a whole, but on the specific photo itself. Curtis Newbold created an excellent infographic called “Can I Use that Picture?” that illustrates when it’s OK to use an image.

Stock Sites to Consider

The Unsplash (550,000+ photos), Pixabay (1.5 million+ photos), Pexels (hundreds of thousands of handpicked images), and StockSnap (handpicked images, similar to Pexels) libraries have thousands of free (as in “use for whatever you want”) photos to search through, with more added intermittently. You can choose to give the photographers credit, but you’re not required to.

3 Ways to Find the Right Images

1. Be Literal
Can you represent the actual thing that you’re talking about? For example: If the content is about the Santa Monica beach, go to the stock sites and search for photos of the actual place that fit the aesthetic you’re aiming for. If you can’t find any up to snuff, move to the second strategy.

2. Focus on a Detail
Try picking a detail within the content or page and finding an image based on that. For example, sticking with the Santa Monica beach example, you could look for an image of a surfer paddling out on water that could be in Santa Monica. Or, maybe it’s a close-up of a blue wave, or underwater, or street scene that all could naturally be associated with Santa Monica. Regardless of what you choose, what’s equally (and oftentimes, more) important than the subject is that the lighting has to fit the mood, the photo has to be on brand, and the quality is as important as anything else.

3. Highlight the Abstract
Maybe the story doesn’t have any image-worthy details, like a story about Santa Monica would. In that case, you could get a little more abstract. Try using a photo to convey an emotion that the story is also trying to convey. Does the story talk broadly about an experience or emotion that you can somehow get at with a photo? Surprise the reader, and let them make the mental connection.

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