How to use stock photos to connect with your people

Have you ever wondered why you are drawn to specific graphics, images or colours? Have you noticed that something catches your eye more than others, awakens something inside of you that compels you to click through or read on?

That, my beautiful friends, is the power the visual. 

It’s no secret we exist in a highly visual world and with each passing update to any one of our favourite visual social medias (Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr), our demand for high quality images and the speed at which we judge content based on this only increases.

It’s magnificent. It’s frightening. And, at its core, it’s a marketing tool that you should be investing in.

So how can you harness this power and use to further share your brand story and compel the right kinds of engagement and interaction from the right kinds of people (your people!).

This visual storytelling relies on a few key aspects which are woven together:

  • Mood

  • Tone

  • Emotion

Photos, images and graphics all hold a specific mood. The content, lighting, colours, angle, editing all work together to create this. And the mood sets the tone for the story which in turn evokes certain emotions in the viewer. 

I’m going to break this down even further into stock photos and brand photos and getting into lots of details below! 

Stock Photos

Case Studies

Have a look at the spreads below from my clients’ Strategy Manuals to see how photos can embody mood, tone and emotion to share a specific story.

This is the curation for Maika Endo

She helps freelancers, aspiring and newly established entrepreneurs and business owners in the therapeutic industries build a business bigger than themselves by helping them holistically streamline their work habits and systems and implement a simplified and easy-to-action marketing strategy so that they feel confident, empowered and calm in their business and life.

Her keywords are 

  • Resourceful

  • Strategy-focused

  • Prioritised

  • Balanced

  • Personal

  • Inspire

  • Calm

  • Uplifting

  • Uncluttered

  • Simplicity

  • Positive

  • Mindset

  • Creativity

  • Harmony

And her people’s keywords are

  • Confidence

  • Growth

  • Balance

  • Freedom

  • Possibilities

  • Overwhelm

  • Determination

  • Support

  • Validation

  • Financial Freedom

  • Goal-setting

  • Implementation

These images embody confidence, support, balance and growth. They often showcase women in a working or office environment, or at home. They share a sense of personal life, motherhood and work. They should have a good balance of energy and calm, should be uplifting, and have a positive overall feel.

You can see how the images work to share her keywords, speak to the keywords of  her people and help create a supportive, feminine, personal, confident, free, and inspiring environment for her people.

This is the curation for Heting Artelier

She provides niche products and unique experiences with a holistic approach to curious souls, so that they feel nourished, inspired and confident to live and breathe their dreams.

Her keywords are 

  • holistic

  • soothing

  • spiritual

  • thoughtful

  • timeless

  • unique

And her people’s keywords are

  • balance

  • connection

  • honesty

  • meaning

  • nourish

  • spiritual

These images embody a calm, nature-inspired feeling, a sense of wonder and curiosity and slow living. They often showcase the hand-crafted and artisan nature of the products she stocks and the jewelery she creates. They share a sense of intentional living, slow food, community, and the beauty we can find in the every day.  

You can see how the images work to share her keywords, speak to the keywords of her people and help create a curious, soothing, spiritual and nourishing environment for her people.

This is the curation for Oasis Design

They work with home-owners who value intentional and quality time with their family and friends by creating beautiful and functional outdoor spaces where great things happen and memories are made.

Their keywords are 

  • Bold

  • Clever

  • Considered

  • Creative 

  • Dynamic

  • Functional

And their people’s keywords are

  • Entertaining

  • Experiences

  • Investment

  • Family

  • Goal-oriented

  • Recharge

These images embody quality time, happy memories and time spent outdoors with friends and family. They often showcase children playing, gardens, alfresco eating and entertaining. They share a sense of happiness, good times, family, friends and intentional time spent with those we love. They use a good mix of colour, while maintaining Oasis’ overall clean and green aesthetic. 

You can see how the images work to share their keywords, speak to the keywords of their people and help create a family-oriented and entertaining environment for their people, immersed in nature and the outdoors.

This is the curation for SMAC Studio

SMAC Studio provides social media solutions to creative entrepreneurs operating in an online space so they feel understood and presence converts to meaningful engagement and sales through tailor-made strategy and content specific to their individual needs and goals.

Their keywords are 

  • Current 

  • Dynamic 

  • Knowledgeable 

  • Sophisticated 

  • Trust 

  • Authentic

And their people’s keywords are

  • Community 

  • Balance 

  • Quality

  • Authentic

  • Personal

  • Confident

These images embody fresh, feminine vibes without being girly or immature. They often showcase mums, or women working in their homes/coffee shops. The share a sense of community. They use a good mix of colour, ensuring that the overall feel of their marketing materials and website don’t have an orange tint to them. Where possible, they choose a muted colour palette in photos although their brand does allow for the use of well-lit and brighter photos. 

They can also include images of their people working or doing what they do best, from painting to photography, showing that their clients cover the spectrum of creative skills. 

You can see how the images work to share their keywords, speak to the keywords of their people and help create a personal, confident, community-driven and sophisticated environment for their people..

From these case studies you can see that each brand uses images differently and to evoke different emotional responses in their audience. And you can see how a certain spread will give you a feel for the brand, what they do, what they stand for and what you can expect from their content.

Brand Photos

Another very powerful and compelling way to share your brand stories is through photos you’ve had taken professionally of yourself, your team and your products or services. 

This is probably my most favourite kind of photo to use in my marketing, on my website and any resources I create for my community.

And I think, in the right situation, they can be more compelling that stock photos. Why? Because they build trust. They allow your audience a peek inside your business, a behind-the-scenes look. They tell the story that this brand is run by a real person who does this real-life service or sells these real-life products and she’s basically just like me. This is what we call humanising the brand. And when your brand is indeed a human (or 2 or 3) this is incredibly important (although using brand photos, and photos of yourself is just one of the ways you do this, and not the only way).

These photos should and can wholly embody the mood of your brand. You have the power to set the stage, as it were. Colours, lighting, props, workspaces. 

A good example of this is during me second brand shoot I had with the delightful Dani from Brunia Lifestyle a few weeks ago. She kindly asked, while I had a glass of wine in hand, whether I minded Finley’s toys being in the background of the photo. I could have taken them away. I could have cleared out his playroom which sits right next to my desk, but rather said “no, not at all!”. Because motherhood, and working from home, is so woven into all the stories that I share, the work that I do and the clients I take on, I can totally embrace a wooden barn (colours not on brand, btw) in the background of my photos. It’s relatable. It’s real. It’s very much what you’d encounter were we sitting in my lounge cosying up with a bottle of wine.

I’ve no doubt that my unfiltered, raw and ‘this is me’ approach to my brand photos isn’t the only way and I am sure not the best path for every business to take. But that’s the beauty - you get to craft the story that works best for you and your people!

Using stock and brand photos together

Now, you’re going to have way more stock photos than brand photos (probably, unless you don’t and you’re all about showing up as yourself everywhere all the time, in which case, you’re amazing and I love you!).

So how do you use them together, well, to ensure your brand photos last, you have a good mix of styles, depths, content and whatever else makes an Instagram grid look amazing (I’m sorry, I’m not a social media guru so I can’t tell you exactly what those things are). I’ve mocked up a board here of my new brand photos used alongside my stock photos. You can see they don’t fight, their colours and content aren’t so vastly different that they’re visually arguing over space and spotlight. Yes, they’re not seamless. But nothing in this world is (except those Victoria Secret seamless panties — those are everything they promise to be!). And it aligns with my ‘this is exactly what you get when we meet in real life’ philosophy.

I exclusively use Moyo Studio photos for my own stock photos and for all my mockups for client presentations and showcasing my design work. Molly and Mark create the most high quality photos and mockups with a minimal and contemporary feel, opting out of the busy, excessively feminine aesthetic that dominated the online space for so long. Their photos are genuinely a breath a fresh air in the stock photo industry and their heart and passion for Moyo and their community can be felt in every collection, email and #madebymoyo roundup

You can sign up to their newsletter to receive free emails every month (usually linked to their latest bundle and always gorgeous) or you can just dive in and become a member to access every photo*, mockup and scene creator they’ve made! But if you’re more of a try-before-you-buy entrepreneur (no judging, I promise!) you can purchase items individually in their online shop too.

If you’re feeling very inspired but a tiny bit stuck, I’ve created a workbook to help you curate your own library of stock images that speak to your people and share your story in a compelling way! Free and fun, with a bonus resources page of my favourite stock photo go-tos.

Download your free workbook to help you develop your own unique stock photo style!

* This is an affiliate link which means if you become a member using this link I earn a small commission at no cost to you. As ever, I only recommend brands and services I absolutely love and use everyday in my own business.

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