How to Use Stock Photos on Instagram

Filed in Haute Stock Membership, Instagram Tips, Social Media — August 12, 2020

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Want to use stock photos on Social Media but still have your feed feel authentic & Engaging? read on!


Need help choosing a more versatile array of topics for your social media? Learn how to choose stock photos that are outside of your main business category but fit your brand!


Do you ever look at your social media feed and wonder what can you do to make it pop? Are you tired of reiterating the same topics and imagery, all while feeling like you don’t know what else to post about?

Ever ask yourself how to use stock photos on Instagram while still making your feed feel authentic?

Don’t fret — we have some answers! We’ve put together this visual guide to show you how to choose stock photos based on your brand colors, your overall brand vibe, your ideal audience and your personal interests.

Trust us, it really is possible to use stock photos on social media and make it authentic!

Our ideas will help you curate an interesting feed, contribute to your storytelling, and create a stronger brand presence. Not to mention you’ll have plenty of ideas on what to post so that you can keep Instagramming consistently to grow your brand!


1 / Consider Color


Color is a huge factor in visual storytelling, so be sure to consider different yet coordinating color palettes when choosing stock photos to use on social media and other marketing platforms.

For Instagram, this will help you maintain a cohesive, curated look for your feed. For other graphics, this will help you keep a consistent brand look across multiple online platforms.

Start by incorporating images that contain your brand colors, but don’t feel confined by using only 2-3 colors in your feed.

Also consider complimentary color palettes that may not necessarily be your main colors but still fit your overall vibe.

For example, if your main brand colors are blush, white, and cream, then consider a soft complimentary palette of sage green, peach, and neutral. Stay away from darker, bold images or vibrant colors. Vice versa applies if your main brand colors are bold — pick complimentary colors that also pop.

In this example graphic, we’ve combined the main brand and complimentary colors together in the feed by choosing stock photos that fit the color scheme. They also flow well together because they feature common charactistics: they’re light, feminine, and natural. There’s a mix of themes (workspace, florals, lifestyle), but the images don’t clash because the colors in each are similar.


Incorporate images that feature complimentary color palettes but fit your overall vibes in you business' social media to add interest to your feed.


2 / Get Personal


If you haven’t already, it’s time to get personal and share with your followers some interesting facts, tidbits, and experiences that shape who you are.

Your audience wants to get to know you, outside of your role as a savvy entrepreneur. They want to feel connected to you as a person, and not just a business with cool products.

For example, your audience may know that you sell digital marketing courses to help them reach their financial goals (reflected in tech/workspace imagery), but what they may not know is that you’re also a self-proclaimed fashionista with a wardrobe full of chic vintage outfits (reflected in fashion/beauty imagery).

While the two topics may not wholeheartedly connect (though you could have started your business to finance your vintage clothing passion!), they do pair seamlessly together in this example graphic in a way that feels authentic and visually appealing.


Post about more topics than just your work - share your interests on your social media feed.


3 / Express Yourself


Building on the topic above, you can also use stock photos to express your brand’s overall style.

By this, we mean the first impression your brand exudes when someone lands on your Instagram grid or your website. Whether your style is luxurious + sophisticated (like the brand in this example graphic), sassy + bold, minimal + stylish, cozy + comfy, or business casual, the images you choose will help you to portray your particular style.

While these photos may not be of your specific products or offerings, they are still working to sell your brand, your business, and your lifestyle (or the lifestyle you want to have/the lifestyle your followers can have).

Visuals can also convey your style more powerfully than the copy on your website, so don’t shy away from using imagery that captures you and your brand’s essence.

If you love fashion then include fashion & beauty images on your feed to express your individuality!


4 / Vibes & Values


Sometimes you may feel that you’re stuck within a certain narrative or type of imagery you’re “allowed” to post. Just because you’re a health coach, doesn’t mean you have to only post images of vitamins and veggies!

Branch out to incorporating imagery that represents a healthy lifestyle, like an image of a woman sleeping, or zen-feeling photo of cacti, and a stack of journals. All of these lend to a narrative of leading a healthy life that give you more visual variety within your brand.

Think about what makes your brand unique and what your core values are, and then choose imagery based off that list. Again — think about the overall lifestyle that your brand/products/services are trying to help your audience create and expand to use images that showcase this lifestyle.

It takes a little bit of playing around with the photos to get the look just right, but ultimately you’re strengthening your brand story and voice and creating a stronger presence when you take the time to add variety to your feed.

Choose images that represent your business' overall vibe and values whether that be health and wellness, mindfulness, meditation, gratitude etc.


5 / Creative Process


Your finished product is important and a source of pride, but what does it take to get to the finish line?

Pick images that can represent the creative process of building your business, products, or services.

For example, Interior Designers can and should share images of their completed project porfolio — the beautifully styled spaces — but to add more variety, interest, and increase post options, they can also include snippets into all the hard work that goes into creating these spaces.

These sorts of stock photos can look like: paint swatches, textures for furniture & decor, tiles for walls, endless coffees, scheduling client meetings, movers, designers, and stylists, etc.

If you’re creating an online course or working on an epic sales page, consider using images of computers, women typing, notebooks, to-do lists, calendars, etc, to convey the process of finally getting to the finish line.

Choose stock photography that shows the creative processes behind your business - the behind the scenes.


6 / Location, Location, Location


If you consider where you live a huge part of the backbone of your business, don’t shy away from sharing that!

If you’re all about the California-dreaming lifestyle, the deserts of Arizona, or the concrete jungle of the city, you can post stock photos of buildings, landscapes, greenery/flowers, outfits, or decor that are all related to what you consider the heart of your hometown.

It doesn’t have to be your actual location. If your brand vibe is actually where you wish to be, or where your followers wish they could be, you can still incorporate that lifestyle element into your visuals.

Think about places that embody the lifestyle your audience desires and pick content to go with that. A good place to start is with travel, architecture, and interiors stock photos.

Keep in mind seasons and holidays. These timely posts generally get a lot of traction, especially at the beginning of a new season, or close to upcoming holidays, when these things are on everyone’s mind.

Choose styled stock photography to include that feature where you're located or where you think your brand would fit in in the world!


7 / Goals & Dreams


Your goals and dreams may not relate directly to your business (or, your business helps foster those goals), but sharing them with your audience helps them see more than one dimension of your brand.

It also helps them feel engaged and invested when you celebrate accomplishments and milestones, especially if you’ve shared the journey with them from the beginning.

Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of visiting Europe, sticking with a consistent workout, baking the perfect cake, or simply having an uninterrupted self-care night for yourself — this is a great way to connect with your audience, share your interests, and maybe even get tips for how you can achieve your goals.

Pick out stock photos that represent what working towards or achieving these goals might look like.

You can also use these kinds of posts to drive engagement by asking your audience to weigh in on their goals, dreams, and accomplishments and use the posts as a way to celebrate and encourage each other.

Find stock photos to post about your goals and dreams whether that be: fitness, self-care, health and wellness, traveling, organizing etc.


8 / Ideal Audience


It’s important to have a clear understanding of your target audience and everything you post — from your visuals to your copy and your content — should be geared toward them in some way.

Consider age, budget, lifestyle, hobbies, location, what they eat, where they hang out, etc. This will help you find more image options to post that fit your branding, as well as help you attract the right audience.

Posting imagery that relates to your ideal audience (even if it doesn’t relate directly to your products) can attract clients/customers, help you build a stronger brand presence, and foster a relationship between you.

People want to see things they can relate to and it can help increase your engagement with your followers. If your audience can imagine using your product or how it may fit within their lifestyle, they’re more likely to be invested in your brand.

Target your ideal audience's lifestyle, hobbies, style, and interests in your stock photos.


9 / Marketing & Promotions

There’s definitely a time to include promotional imagery in your social media feed, you’re running a business after all! So don’t shy away from creating marketing graphics for your business, and mixing them in with your other types of posts — because you want your marketing imagery to stand out, you can venture into bolder, brighter, more sparkly territory than you may have for a regular post.

Use celebration (think glitter, pops of confetti, people toasting) stock photography as a way to signal to your clients that this deal or your business is worth their attention. You can maintain consistency with your brand by choosing celebration stock images that either feature your brand colors or complimentary colors. Also pay attention to the feel of the collection. Is it light + airy, playful + bright, soft + moody, or sassy + sophisticated? Pick images that fit your vibe.

Make sure your copy matches your brand’s voice as well. It will bring familiarity to your clients. You can do this by including keywords that you tend to use to describe your business. For example, if you market your business as being a luxurious spa for clients who appreciate quality then consider including words like luxe, high-end, quality, etc. Mix in your promotional and marketing graphics with your regular, on-brand content and you’re good to go!


Use celebration or lifestyle stock photography outside of your main business' category for marketing and promotional graphics!
Use celebration or lifestyle stock photography outside of your main business' category for marketing and promotional graphics!
Use celebration or lifestyle stock photography outside of your main business' category for marketing and promotional graphics!


We hope this post helped to highlight some of the ways you can expand your use of stock photos to incorporate more storytelling into your online posts.

These suggestions will help you to create a more robust strategy for what to post, and how to use imagery that may not be immediately obvious, but that will have impact if used intentionally!



Ready to mix up your brand’s social media feed?

Sign up for a subscription to the exclusive Haute Stock library and get access to thousands of styled stock images, stock videos, social media graphics, customizable Canva templates and designer branding elements!

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